It’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than 90 days away. For toy marketers, that means the pressure is on to reach as many press as possible about your hot product for the holiday season. You can try calling or emailing them with your pitch—good luck with that. Or you can send the toy unsolicited, but it may just sit there unopened among the dozens of other packages that press start receiving as soon as Labor Day is past.
Smart marketers know there’s a much better solution: the TTPM Holiday Media Showcase, which took place on Tuesday, Sept. 29, in New York City. The TTPM website (ttpm.com) offers written and video reviews of toys, baby products, pet toys, and more, as well as live price comparisons. The TTPM Holiday Media Showcase brings together manufacturers who have new holiday products to show with the media who have Q4 stories to write.
For more details, we spoke with Jim Silver, the brains behind both.
Q: First, can you explain what you do on the TTPM website?
A: We used to have a static website called Time to Play, but we realized people want to see products out of the box. So we started offering video reviews done by experts in each field, and they show you what you’re really getting. How big is the product, how does it work, how much fun is it? We rank our pet toys according to “human fun” and “pet fun,” which aren’t always the same thing. On baby products, we have an “Is it worth it?” category—is a $1,000 stroller worth it compared to a $300 stroller? With toys, we’ll find out if it requires a lot of complicated assembly, or is it as much fun as they claim? People thank us for our honest reviews.
Q: And was the Holiday Media Showcase an outgrowth of that?
A: We started it six years ago to give the media an opportunity to see the final production of all these toy products. I’ve been in the toy media many years, and we often see prototypes, but that’s not the not same as final production. We wanted to build a showcase so the media could meet with the senior executives at these manufacturers and discuss the products.
Q: Which media attend the Showcase?
A: We have traditional media, dotcoms, newspapers, and I’m thrilled to say we were the first to have bloggers and the kids who have their own YouTube channels doing toy reviews. Now we’re looking for Instagram influencers.
Q: How is it different from Toy Fair?
A: Our event is all about touching. If you’ve got a new Nerf blaster, the media will be able to pick it up and shoot it. It’s all hands-on. When you walk around Toy Fair, you can look at a toy, and it may look great, but later when you test it, sometimes it’s not so good. It’s like trying on clothes: looks good on the rack, maybe not great on the body.
Q: Which companies attend?
A: We have about 70 attending, including Mattel, Hasbro, Jakks, Lego , Disney Consumer Products, Peanuts, Nickelodeon, Universal Consumer Products, small companies—the list is endless. People generally come back every year because it’s so successful.
Q: What can a company do to stand out?
A: We actually limit the amount of space that companies can take. This is not like Toy Fair where larger companies can build something 10 times the size of someone else. We don’t allow that. This is more about the products than about building a beautiful booth. Just display the product in nice way, and allow people to test it out. Also, at a lot of shows, people just go for the freebies. Here, you don’t get a freebie unless you visit the booth, meet with the company, and they give you a ticket. Then you go to the gift room and it’s waiting for you.
Q: What’s the vibe in the room like?
A: It’s like Christmas morning! It’s loud. There’s a huge amount of energy in the room. We allow members of the media to bring their kids in at 12:30, and then they get to try out the products. It’s like throwing a wedding for 1,000 people.
Q: Tell me about your Most Wanted List.
A: We announce our Most Wanted List at the show—the toys that will be in most demand each holiday season. It’s the most quoted list in the industry because we’re right about 98% of the time. We announced Zhu Zhu Pets and Monster High as hot toys. We understand what makes a great toy. (This year’s list features four “Star Wars” toys, including a remote-controlled Millennium Falcon from Spin Master; the Imaginext Ultra T-Rex from Fisher Price for preschoolers; A Nerf Rival blaster from Hasbro for bigger kids; and such “Innovations in Classic Play” as a Girl Scouts Cookie Oven from Wicked Cool Toys and The Peanuts Movie Happy Dance Snoopy from Just Play.)
Q: You must get a lot of lobbying from toy companies!
A: You have no idea. Every company is pitching us. But we don’t give feedback to anybody. And we actually review every single toy. If we don’t play with it, we’re not featuring it. We have the ability to make manufacturers very happy, and we also have people upset with us every year. I say if manufacturers don’t get upset with us sometimes, we’re not doing our job.