In the beginning there was TV. It only had a few channels, and kids relied on them to see their favourite shows. It was the primary way for kids to interact with brands and also to find out about new toys during the ad breaks.
Satellite was a gamechanger - more kids channels were introduced the TV landscape became more fragmented, adding opportunity for more shows and for more advertising platforms.
Now with the internet promises to have a similar impact. Virtual worlds can provide kids with hours of brand engagement per day, while advances in streaming content mean kids can now watch programmes online. Theoretically, kids no longer need a TV to entertain themselves.
At the forefront of the movement is YouTube, which has become a hub for all sorts of video content, accessible on all manner of devices.
For certain pioneering toy brands, particularly those in the girls market, the ‘webisode’ (short, episodic, online which typically lasts around two minutes) has become an incredibly impactful method of brand engagement. Take Monster High for example. Its YouTube uploads regularly attract at least 500,000 views and often more than 1 million – very healthy numbers indeed.
So it’s no co-incidence that in Mattel’s most recent Q3 financial results, girls brands were up 57 per cent, ‘primarily driven by Monster High’ – needless to say it’s been a huge hit.
“Monster High was very much born from the digital platform,” exaplains Emma Stowers, Mattel’s UK marketing manager girls.
“So girls have discovered and engaged with the brand through the stories and characters that are brought to life in the webisodes that live on the You Tube channel.”
Stowers adds that children are instinctively ‘digital savvy’ these days and the figures prove that YouTube is a great channel for entertainment.
“It’s easily accessible and is there all the time there is no appointment to view; it’s there on demand when the consumer wants to access it. Creatively, it gives us more opportunities to build exciting and engaging content around our brands and to be flexible with our story telling.”
Toy market analyst NPD believes those brands which embrace the digital content revolution will be the ones that prosper, especially when it comes to the girls market.
“These toys are very relevant to the girls of today, because they talk to them through social media, with Monster High releasing video on YouTube,” says Frederique (accents needed) Tutt, NPD’s analyst for the European toy market.
“We’ve seen that’s one of the biggest growth areas in the UK market and if you can can do it through YouTube and get as popular as Monster High is without going through TV or films, it raises an interesting question for the future of media.”
So YouTube is proving to be a great medium which brands can use reach consumers, but the website’s true beauty is its user-generated content.
In the past few years YouTube has grown its user uploads dramatically with the introduction of its partner programme, which effectively pays users to produce videos.
Now anyone can become the presenter of their own show, and if they have an audience, they can make a living – or even become a millionaire – by exploring their favourite subjects in an in-depth way that TV never had the time to do.
A toy-related example, The Brick Show provides its viewers with daily updates – previews, reviews and news - on all the latest goings-on the world of LEGO, in a ‘vlog’ (video blogging) style format.
LEGO UK’s general manager Drew Brazer certainly believes this is an area worthy of stimulation: “If you look on YouTube there are well over one million Lego YouTube videos posted. And that’s fan generated, not the Lego Company putting them out there.
“We’re doing work with bloggers - sending them product, letting them rate it and talk about it, and they can say whatever they want about it. I think endorsements like that go a long way – more than paid advertising.
There’s many examples out there aside from The Brick Show, which is just one of many toy related YouTube channels out there dedicated providing passionate content on toys.
the toy brands
These are the toy brands which are best using YouTube to cultivate their fan bases...
The success of Monster High has been built with online content and at the heart of this is a series of animated webisodes (online shows usually around two-minutes long). On YouTube these webisodes regularly attract at least 500,000 views and often more than one million – very healthy numbers indeed. With an audience like that, Mattel also has fertile ground for promoting the latest Monster High toy releases.
This die-cast car brand has recently jumped into real life with a series of outrageous stunt and Hot Wheels’ YouTube presence acts as a hub for the team’s exploits. The latest Hot Wheels toys are also profiled.
Barbie has only half the YouTube presence of her alternative fashion doll cousin Monster High, but she’s no slouch. This year she has branched out with a splendid CG-animated reality TV-style show titled ‘Life in the Dreamhouse’.
The channel for all things Transformers has everything from teasers for the latest Transformers movies, TV series’ and video games, to profiles on the latest toys and their corresponding TV commercials.
Nerf HQ keeps fans updated with everything that’s going on with the blaster brand. There’s also informational programming in the shape of the Nerf Performance Institute, which gives viewers in-depth info on the latest toys.
The Official LEGO channel
‘If every LEGO brick told a story, it would be told here...’ LEGO’s growing official YouTube channel features special previews of forthcoming LEGO sets, behind-the-scenes content, play guides while also showcasing the best in fan-created animations and more. The delightful The Hobbit play-set demonstration above is a good example of the quality content the channel provides LEGO fans.
LEGO Club TV
LEGO Club TV features content similar to its official counterpart alongside a multitude of fan made stop-motion animations. Here, LEGO fans can also find building tips, challenges and more.
The Brick Show
The Brick Show profiles LEGO sets new and old and treats its subscribers to building tutorials, reviews and the latest LEGO news in a TV-style format. Other block-based construction toys are occasionally profiled too.
This channel produced the famous Call of Duty themed LEGO animation, ‘LEGO Black Ops’. It has been watched over 17 million times and highlights Kenshen’s talents as one of YouTube’s finest and funniest toy animators.
Swedish chiptune band and LEGO nuts Rymdreglage shot to internet fame with their excellent LEGO music video, ‘8-bit trip’. Other brick-based videos have followed and there’s more to come.
the toy lovers
Videos from these YouTubers attract thousands upon millions of views. Toys profiled here stand to recieve a healthy PR boost and could go on to become best-sellers as a result.
In his often hilarious style Mr Mozart judges whether toys are an ‘epic fail’ or ‘epic win’. Between his channels, Mike Mozart has nearly 200 million views.
‘The Dork Knight’ Sean Long lives and breathes toys and presents his subscribers with regular weekly content, including video reviews and news.
In his own words, Leokim is ‘just a guy making kids happy’ with reviews on today’s biggest toys. This Aussie gives his honest opinions on top playthings. showing their features and giving his opinion on them, and sometimes even exploring the insides of the products to show how they work.
Atamaii.com Toy Review
Endearing older gentleman Stu Carter is one of YouTube’s most thorough toy reviewers. He provides weekly content on the latest toys.
The Pixel Dan Channel
Pixel Dan’s first-rate, well-judged toy reviews are well worth checking out, as are his comedy toy skits. A variety of regular shows cover all types of toys. keep game toys segment - Blind Bag Minifigure Madness and Flashback Friday.
Time to Play
One of the most prolific toy related YouTubers, US family toy website timetoplaymag.com has produced well over 3,000 videos to date.
The Toy Break team is massively dedicated to toys. The focal part of its programming is the eponymous ‘Toy Break’ show – a weekly video digest of the latest toy releases, which can be anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes.
Peter Jenkinson creates special videos for events like Toy Fair, as well as virals to complement toy campaigns. Keep an eye out for the pilot of Toyology TV.
North American retailer Hobby King covers every aspect of R/C on its well subscribed channel. Give in-depth insights into the latest models.
taking them for a test flight or drive.
Shameless plug? Perhaps, but our growing channel is a great place to see toy TV creatives, as well as special interviews and reports. We’ll also be expanding our video coverage in the future, so be sure to subscribe.
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