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Interview: Joel Silverman talks the success of ToyAid and the industry-wide fight against COVID-19

“When the world went into lockdown,” Joel Silverman, CEO of KidsKnowBest and co-founder of the successful ToyAid campaign, begins, “I started to worry about the industry we are in. I thought, what can we do to make a difference? Is there a way to shine a light on this great industry?”

Some four weeks after the launch of ToyAid, a collaboration not only with Wow! Stuff’s own Richard North and insight from Start Licensing’s Ian Downes, but also of the wider toy industry from its retailers to its manufacturers, Silverman’s campaign is – at its last and by no means final count – about to bring in over £150,000 for families and children affected by COVID-19.

In so short a timeframe, Silverman, North, et al, have not only managed to unite an industry in the world’s stance against the coronavirus pandemic, but certainly have shone that light on what can be achieved by those working within it. Here, ToyNews catches up with Silverman as ToyAid begins to wind up its month-long campaign.

Can you tell us about the ToyAid campaign – how did the idea come about, how did the partnership with Richard North come to be, and what tied it all around to Global’s Make Some Noise campaign?

When the world went into lockdown, shops started closing, Amazon deemed toys non-essential I started to worry about the industry we are in. I then started to realise, the toy industry is one of the industries less hard hit compared to the likes of fashion, hospitality and travel, to name a few. So I thought, what can we do to make a difference? Is there a way to shine a light on the great industry?

Most consumers aren’t aware of all the manufacturers per sé. They obviously know the brand names, so let’s come together and make a difference. I toyed with many ideas but the easiest to utilise was by picking up the phone to friends I’d made in the industry to ask for support and build a collaboration. Richard is someone I have a lot of time for, I was checking in to see if he was okay. I pitched him my initial idea of ‘A collaboration between companies’ and we brainstormed together and came up with ToyAid.

The great thing about partnering with Richard is he knows the toy world as good as anyone. Together we called round every friend we had to get them to jump on board.

With Global’s Make Some Noise, I have a friend from my previous career at Global whom I reached out to. The fact that they support charities that are hit hardest in the community mostly around the youth, family and children sector meant that it was a match made in heaven. We donate the money to Global and they pass it on to the countless charities they have relationships with, it also means we have a big outlet to shout from the rooftops from.

Why was this such an important campaign for you to launch? How did your expertise and position with KidsKnowBest help you in bringing all of this together?

It is very important to me because I always believe in the power of giving back. I think everyone forgets doing a little to help out can make a real difference to someone else. By me giving my time up, I know it will help countless families around the UK. I have always tried to do one charity initiative a year and support a great cause along the way. I’ve run Marathons, had boxing fights, hosted black tie balls, even slept rough, but nothing to this scale with so many partners.

My expertise and position in KidsKnowBest helped bring this together because we understand the digital landscape better than anyone, it meant my team could run a brilliant influencer campaign, utilise their platforms to spread the word. You need to work hard on something and always ask questions, we asked for support and we got it in abundance from every angle.

With a week left of the campaign, how do you reflect on the initiative – its success and support it received from the toy and entertainment industries? Did it surpass expectations?

As we attempt to stop the campaign, I feel the awareness it has brought and the togetherness of so many companies has been brilliant, it is nice that competitors can support the same thing, one thing I was worried about is all these great companies not wanting to be associated with each other, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It really showed what a great industry we are in.

It has completely surpassed expectations, I know the minimum we have raised is just shy of £150k, we are awaiting final sales figures, hopefully we can boost that up.

What has the ToyAid campaign encompassed over the last few weeks, and has this prompted any discussions on continuing the campaign beyond this month? Could there be a long term future for ToyAid?

One thing is for sure, charity work is hard work, lots of egos, I just wanted to help. The brands seem very keen for a sustained initiative, I think for the moment, a month is enough, we need to focus on getting the industry back to great health. But who knows next year, I would love to have ToyAid, a yearly event that gets bigger and bigger.

There’s talk that there’s a mini documentary in the works, which is indicative of a captivating story around the whole process… what stood out the most for you during the development of this idea into the successful campaign it has become?

We hope to have the bandwidth internally to put this together, we will definitely be publishing our case studies from influencers and families we have supported. What stood out the most for me, was how accommodating people are with their time, everyone has given time for free, nobody has asked for anything as they know the wider cause is much greater. I am also very proud of my internal team, stepping up and working very hard to make this a success, paid campaigns take precedent but they really have gone above and beyond.

How can the industry continue to support ToyAid?

At the moment, their support has been fantastic, as I said, I would like to regroup with Richard and think about how we can develop this long term.

I also just want to thank Ian Downes and The LightFund, without their support we wouldn’t even be able to give the money away. Who knew giving money to charity was so hard. Also a massive thank you again for everyone that answered our calls / zooms / emails, we know how busy life and business is, this is a great movement and I hope everyone gets the recognition they deserve.

About Robert Hutchins

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