Time To Change & Rearrange

As Seen in Toy Fair Times 2016 Edition

By David G. Becker, Blue Plate Media Services

 Today’s consumer is elusive.  It is harder to reach, let alone engage, with your target audience today than it was yesterday. And I'm not only talking about kids.  I’m also referring to tweens, teens, young adults, and moms and dads, too.

 It's like your target audience is walking around with a virtual remote control, able to tune in and out of your well-financed advertising messaging on a whim.  We are living in a “what I want when I want it world”.  It's time to either get with the program or get left behind.  Too much money is on the line to do it any other way.

 If we take the time to understand our new reality, and the environment that our target audience is living, we can connect with our audience in a bigger, deeper, bolder way than ever before.  It is time to embrace new audience behaviors, understand shifted consumer consumption patterns and avoid the pitfalls of relying on rear-view-mirror marketing and the underwhelming tactics of yesterday.

 Back in the Mad Men days of advertising, there was the Media clock.  We followed our audience from the time they woke up in the morning to the time they plopped their heads on their pillows at night.  We were on radio, morning news, billboards, magazines, daytime TV, fringe, prime time and Saturday morning cartoons, delivering product messaging to our predictable audience.

 Today’s consumer is less predictable.  They are elusive and a moving target.  If we want to reach the consumer, drive product awareness, connect on a deeper level, and drive to sale, we must deliver the product message deliberately, organically, contextually and authentically.  They continually hold that proverbial remote control, and can and will tune out in seconds, squashing much of your media investment in the process.  Today, it is more important than ever to clearly define your audience and understand where and when they consume their media. 

 When targeting kids, throwing your ad dollars at the kids’ networks, and hoping your way to success, is the obvious play, but only part of the answer.  Ratings are dropping.  It doesn't mean they're not watching, it means they are finding their content elsewhere.  They are hopping from screen to screen, watching what they want when they want it and tuning out everything else.  Content providers are nervous nillies, scrambling to extend their messaging across screens in a desperate attempt to be where their audience is.  So, yes, your consumer is still watching, but they are in control of the “where” and “when”.   

While TV remains an announcement medium, and a powerful tool, digital has emerged as the engagement medium.  And digital is redefining itself.  Just a few years ago, we would use digital to buy tonnage. Big reach, low CPMs.  But we have learned that cheap is expensive.  Banner blindness has taken its toll, as kids are tuning out banners in lieu of more engaging video.    Today, we still see peddlers pushing unscrupulous solutions, often satisfying their selling needs but coming up short, as they are peddling inventory limited to their own isolated networks.  Sure, we still use aggregated networks and leverage programmatic, but winning performance is a blend of premium partnerships with a sprinkle of long tail impressions to drive efficient reach.

 We must also avoid the popular trap of the ‘media solution of the moment’.  To hang your hat, or anchor your campaign, on one platform, at the exclusion of another, can be dangerous, and costly.  Look at paid social.  While influencers and bloggers can serve as effective product ambassadors, especially when targeting today’s kids and moms, and will likely have a place in your marketing mix for years to come, don’t expect these overlay tactics to carry the heavy lifting of your consumer messaging.  You’ll fall short.  Efficient reach, at the very least, will be sacrificed.  Each element has a place in your mix and spending should be weighted and allocated accordingly. It's also important to implement measurability/viewability metrics to help analyze and compare the effectiveness of one tactical medium over another.  This helps to determine how much dollars should be allocated against each platform, and each placement, and how you will ultimately measure the effectiveness and the ROI of your campaign.  Performance metrics, often dictated by campaign objectives, have expanded beyond cost per thousand to cost per engagement, cost per completed view and cost per acquisition.  Media measurement and analytics is key to a winning campaign, especially if you want decisions to be objective and not succumb to the subjectivity and the popularity of the moment. 

 We are living in exciting marketing times.  But if you are relying on yesterday’s media tactics to drive today’s wins, perhaps it is time to change and rearrange.  Your ROI will be better because of it.



Blue Plate Media Services is proudly celebrating its 12th year as affinity media partner with Toy Industry Association and serves as media advocate for the toy industry, educating toy and youth marketers about all things media.

Blue Plate Media Services is a full service media strategy, planning and buying agency specializing in connecting and engaging with Kids, Moms and Families.  Blue Plate Media delivers highly targeted, integrated solutions across the media landscape.  For information, visit www.blueplatemedia.net or call David Becker at 908-918-0202. 

Behavioral Trends Shape Marketing Spends

THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN Retail Merchandiser Jan/Feb 2015

RM Logo.jpg

By David G. Becker

You’d have to be living on Mars to think that the advertising tactics of yesterday are the same tactics that reach and engage the youth of today.  It’s important to be aware (it’s almost impossible not to) that the media landscape is changing before our very eyes, that young consumers are in complete control over their content, that audiences are consuming their information through multiple screens, and that an engaged consumer trumps an exposed consumer.

So, how does this apply to driving consumers in store to buy your product? Well, if you’re a buyer, no matter what category you’re buying, you are concerned, and rightly so, with how your on-shelf products are being marketed.  

In today’s fast paced, high stakes, consumer retail environment, smart marketing pays off. And not so smart marketing can siphon your marketing dollars and eat away at your bottom line.

For products perched on the toy and consumer electronic shelves, and when targeting today’s youth, we are clearly living in a TV/ Digital world. According to Kantar Media, in 2014 alone, Online Video spend was up 229%, while Banner spending was up 1.4%, with advertising dollars clearly shifting from TV to the new formats.  Ignore it?  Or embrace it.

Within your media mix (the media touch points you use to reach your targeted consumer), it is important to measure each medium and analyze how your advertising message reaches, connects, engages and, ultimately, drives your target audience to the retail environment to buy. You can assign attribution modeling to determine which touch point gets credit for the conversion or sale. 

Does It Count As An Impression If It Doesn’t Make One?
Before we can get the consumer to buy, however, we first have to reach them and engage them.  But how can we engage them, if they don’t see our message? What I’m talking about is viewability, a close cousin to measurability, and a critical term in the forefront of today’s marketing vernacular.  A Viewable Impression, as defined by Wikipedia, is “a metric of ads which were actually viewable when served (in part, entirely or based on other conditional parameters)”.Understanding the term can help you to drive ROI.   Ignore viewability, or turn a blind eye, and you might be flushing your media money down the toilet.  Whatever media you choose to embrace, remember that viewability matters.  It is measurable metric, and a reliable one, providing you slow down long enough to take its temperature, measure it, and adjust your spending.

While you might believe that your campaign is generating X number of targeted impressions, your viewability metrics might tell a different story.  While impressions might look good on paper, a look under the hood might reveal that the messaging you are paying for is not actually reaching your audience.   Your digital units (banners and videos) might be fraudulent in click reporting or simply living beneath “the fold”, never to be seen by the audience that you are paying to see it. 

There are numerous accurate measuring tools that actually measure which ads are being viewed and which ads are not.  Your media agency should be subscribing to these tools.  If they are not, you might be seeing only half the picture.  Imagine if a video is playing beneath the fold, on auto play.  On paper, it looks as though that video was viewed by your target consumer.  But the reality is they never saw your video. Unfortunately, you paid for it.  And you are now working off a false set of delivery metrics.  It’s no wonder your click through rate is low.  They never saw your ad!

Google Says What?
Google recently shocked the trades with a report that “more than 56% of ad impressions are not seen and that an ad served does not necessarily equal an ad viewed”.  Yikes!  ComScore reports that “more than half of display ads , 54% to be precise, do not have the opportunity to be seen by a consumer”.  These are startling, sobering numbers.  But with the right tools, and the right team, you can optimize your campaign, in real time, and lessen the units that are not viewed and optimize them to more viewable placements.

Viewability is not limited to Digital.  It is alive and well in Television, too.  Just because your audience is measured doesn’t mean they are tuned in to your message.  While TV spots control 100% of your screen, TV viewers are sometimes distracted, multi-tasking and disengaged.  This is yet another reason why multi messaging advertising, across platforms, is pivotal to a successful marketing campaign.

When it comes to marketing to kids (and moms, too), TV spots are delivered in terms of ratings, measured by Nielsen.  Now audience viewing is place shifted and time shifted.  Recent ratings on most of the kid networks are down, while overall audience levels are running steady.  This is because more screens have come into play, as our kids are watching the same content from TV to PC to Tablet to Mobile to Console Gaming Systems, to the device of the moment.

When building your next media campaign, remember that “behavioral trends shape marketing spends.”  Cheap impressions are not always the best impressions.   Focus on the tightest targeting possible.  Reach and engage your audience with highly targeted, multi screen messaging.  Prioritize impressions that reach a real user and have a chance to make a real impact.  Take the temperature of your campaign….and adjust.   Your product sales will be better because of it.

The Media Play In the Business of "Play"

This article appeared in Toy Fair Times 2015

Toy Fair Times 2015


By David Becker, President, Blue Plate Media Services

Just because you sold product in doesn’t mean you’ll sell product through.  Hopeful marketing and wishful thinking might work in the movies, but it is not a viable tactic when money is on the line and your product is sitting on shelf unsupported.  A smartly planned and surgically executed media campaign is pivotal in marketing product today.  It’s a “must have” to gain sell-in and a “gotta have” to drive sell-through.  An underfunded media campaign can often be just as ineffective as a non-existent one.  And an ill timed, far forward, strategy might satisfy your buyers (initially) but will do little to drive product when holiday traffic kicks in and the budget wears out.   

So, what is a marketer to do? 

First, you need to establish a viable budget to build a media plan that will deliver against campaign objectives. But, unfortunately, money doesn’t fall from the sky.  A media budget must come from somewhere.  There are steps you can take to establish budget.  You can look at the competition to see what they spend, work off an A/S (advertising to sales ratio), back into a budget or bake one in, meaning that each unit sold includes a dollar amount allotted to media.  The latter is an ideal scenario, providing your margins can support it.

Once budget is established, you’ll need a media plan.  Your plan should align with distribution.  You’ll need to establish a mix of relevant media that will reach and engage your target audience and drive them to action.

You’ll need to strategize a flight, the pivotal weeks when your media campaign will run. Are you focusing on the six weeks leading into Easter, the fifteen weeks leading into Holiday, or sometime in between?  If you sell in for Fall, and are on shelf in August when plan-o-grams change, your buyer might justifiably want to see early movement.  Not an easy task since holiday shopping won’t kick in for another 2+ months. You may be persuaded to invest in August/September to drive early sales, but you’ll need enough firepower to carry you through the holiday season.  A tricky trap that you’ll need to address carefully. You don’t want to come out heavy and leave yourself weak when the merchandise meets the money, during the frenzy of holiday shopping.  So, it is imperative to establish a flight strategy that will drive your brand while also satisfying your buyer’s request.   It can be a balancing act, and well worth discussing with your retail partners and your media strategy team.

As if establishing your media plan is not hard enough -- the media landscape is continually evolving and your approach to smart media planning should be evolving with it, putting you ahead of the pace.  Everyday there are new opportunities for targeting and message delivery to kids, moms and families, along with new tools to measure behavior and impact.   With proper understanding, and the right media team, you can have a better handle today on what is working to market your product and what is not. 

So, what is the right media mix for your brand? 

Historically, TV has been the big recipient of media when targeting kids.  While TV habits have changed quite a bit, TV viewership among kids remains intact.  But the screens airing the content have multiplied.  Eyeballs have time shifted.  As a result, today, more than ever, successful toy brands grow as a result of a smartly executed mix of integrated media, across consumer touch points. This includes TV, but is not limited by it. 

If you’re a toy marketer, you should know that we are living in a TV/ Digital world.  This year, according to Kantar Media, Online Video spend is up 229% from last year, while Banner spending is up 1.4%, with dollars clearly shifting from TV to the new formats.

Today, with smart planning, and an expert media team, you can plan and make decisions based on Targeting; Viewability; Completed Views and historical performance. The out-of-pocket cost for digital campaigns is now higher than the days of cheap tonnage impressions, but the potential for higher ROI is greater as well.

When planning an integrated media campaign, it is imperative to build a team of talented experts who truly understand the kids space -- from the right media planning and buying agency, to the right public relations and social marketing team, to the right TV/Video production house.  It’s not about cheap media anymore, but smart media that reaches, engages and connects with your audience. We have seen far too many newcomers hire unqualified talent and hope their way through a campaign.  Stop!  Smart, experienced talent goes a long way and sets the stage for a winning campaign.  Too much is at stake to do it any other way.

Toy Marketing Media Mix: The Why Is More Important Than The What

The rapid expansion of media channels and devices is making it more challenging for advertisers to find the right media mix to reach consumers, at the right time and place, for maximum return on investment. Rising media costs and tight marketing budgets are adding to that challenge. How are advertisers to think about this omni-channel, always connected media environment given the proliferation of digital options and the media proclaimed death of TV, magazines, radio and newspaper?

First, realize it’s really not a question on how to use a specific channel. You simply cannot succeed in a single-channel environment.  Not anymore!

What we are seeing is far from the decline and replacement of traditional media that you might read in the trade press and blogosphere. We are at a fundamental inflection point where the number of “media channels” of importance have been multiplied. Target consumers are increasing their year-over-year usage of both traditional and new digital channels and are often engaging in all of them (often simultaneously). The way they use this media is more chaotic than linear and that chaos is the real challenge for the advertiser: multiple media touchpoints, multiple devices in multiple locations.  Understanding the role of individual media in the pathway to purchase requires some new thinking.  With this new thinking comes a new level of media planning, buying, and campaign management, and a heightened level of analysis and reporting that can lead to campaign optimization…and greater return for the brand.

Second, don’t let the “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome” drive your strategy.

It’s very easy to fall in love with the latest technological fad. The thing is it’s not about the technology. If we start our media mix here than we have already failed. The problem is three-fold. 1) Shiny objects don’t last forever and usually by the time we jump on one the consumer has moved on. 2) Rapid growth and adoption doesn’t directly translate to leverageable scale, and 3) we tend to make the mistake of approaching new technologies in the way we approached the old technologies.  But it shouldn’t work that way.  Preconceived notions don’t translate from one medium to another.   Because consumers interact differently with each medium, we have to approach each medium from a different mindset…with consumers’ behaviors in mind. 

When selecting channels for the media plan the why is now more important than the what. Understanding why consumers use each medium and how it influences their purchase decisions is more important than choosing “the old tried and true” or the latest medium.

The process starts with understanding consumer media behavior on a far deeper level than just media exposure and efficiency. Justifying where to put marketing dollars requires fact-based insight across all media platforms for all target audiences.  For Toys and Games that means looking at both Kids and Moms.

How do we communicate with the consumer? The clichéd answer to this question is that if the target is under the age of 50 the communication of brand messages is all about social media and mobile devices. Such a blanket statement is fundamentally wrong. We have identified some of the core motivations, purchase influence and media consumption behaviors of Kids and their Moms.

Kids:  Building “the want”.

1.  Kids rarely buy toys and games directly but they exert great influence on the process.

2. They aspire to have the toys their friends have. Media plays a key role in triggering the “I want/I gotta have”.

3. TV is the largest media habit and most influential medium to drive “the want” for Kids. Dollar for dollar, TV is still the best place to reach the masses and showcase your toy.  But, if you want to keep Kids engaged, you have to go beyond TV. 

4.  For Kids, internet is entertainment.  It’s about gaming, streaming videos and visiting sites like Nick.com, Disney.com and YouTube.com.

5.  YouTube is the #3 U.S. website - bigger than Yahoo, Gmail, and Amazon.

6.  Mobile: Kids own their own phones (22%) and tablets (25%) but restrict use to gaming.

7.  Social Networking: Still growing kid medium due to age restrictions, parental control. Less than 20% of Kids 6-11 are active on social sites.


Moms: Driving the sale.

·        Moms are harder to reach via media and marketing than in decades past.

·        Technology affects how Moms socialize, communicate and, more importantly, purchase items for themselves and their families.

·        Moms with Kids under six watch less TV overall than the general population, but over-index on time-shifted TV each month.

·        On any given day, 67% of Moms use the internet while watching TV simultaneously. 

·        Mobile serves as a life line and is increasingly the “go to” device for shopping. 

·        Moms of Kids 0-5 are more than twice as likely to visit a social site 3X+ per day.

·         Social media’s role in ROI is to amplify and reverberate passive and active advocacy…but it cannot work in isolation. 


The multi-channel media planning demanded by todays’ Path to Purchase has set new rules for the toy advertiser:

·        Recognize the multi-touchpoint flow of the path and need for multiple media channels.

·        Incorporating cross-device usage into the digital plan is critical.  

·        Align the offer and creative to the medium and its role in the pathway.

·        Branding is critical.  Make it quickly and easily identifiable in every medium.


Digital media options have added complexity to media planning. As a result, we need to continuously refine and improve marketing plans based on the ever-changing media environment. Test and learn is the new mantra. Insights into consumer buying behavior and the way they interact with media are now fundamental to generating sales and driving ROI.

A single channel media campaign creates a one dimensional brand.  For a more robust media campaign, consider a multi-channel approach.  You’re brand will be better because of it.  

GfK MRI, 2013 American Kids Study
Experian Hitwise US, Top 10 US Websites by total visits week ending November 30, 2013

David Becker, President, Blue Plate Media Services

Tim Jones, Media Director, Blue Plate Media Services


Digitally Splintered

Consumers are bombarded by information overload. In the marketing world, the days of “spray and pray” are over.  Only relevance breaks through.  It doesn’t matter if your audience is 5 or 65; they are navigating their content from many sources…and screens.  You are not in control.  They are.  They control the countless content they consume and they are time shifting your media delivery.  They let in what they want…when they want it…and discard what they don’t want.  Your only protection from getting lost in the shuffle is a clear understanding of new media.  

Consider Digital Tactics:

Digital is an exponentially growing medium embraced by consumers, but often overlooked by advertisers. In a splintered media world digital advertising cannot be ignored. Syndicated research shows that TV drives to web.  83% of Moms search for a product after being exposed to a TV ad.  58% of Moms made a purchase after searching online.  Search engine marketing supports a well-rounded media schedule and guides the consumer along the purchase path.

Online usage is vast and varied, leaving multiple touch points for advertisers to intercept target audiences. Most Moms 25-54 go online daily with an average of 88 online visits per month.

Only email and search engines are used more than social networks by adult internet users. Now more than ever hand-held devices such as smart phones, iPods, tablets and e-readers bring the web to users’ fingertips 24/7 providing endless opportunities for brand messaging and engagement. 

Fight splintered attention with splintered messaging and create a balanced whole.  Deliver across a relevant mix of media and talk to your audience where they live, in their multiple information dwellings, and in a language they understand.  

Today, you can be smarter and make your dollars work harder, more reliably, and measurably, then ever before in history.  Don’t be scared of it.  Embrace it - and recognize that today’s splintered messaging is your opportunity to break through.

David Becker, President, Blue Plate Media Services

Published 11.22.11


Running a SEM Campaign? Cheap Isn't Always Better

What makes a paid search campaign successful? Is it an extremely low cost-per-click (CPC)? A large volume of clicks? A high click through rate (CTR)? 

There are so many metrics a marketer can use to evaluate a successful paid search campaign. Very often, running an efficient paid search campaign, with an extremely low CPC, is top of mind for marketers.  Deleting expensive keywords and adding efficient ones helps generate a large quantity of clicks, translating into a high site visitation volume.  However, does a low CPC guarantee a successful campaign? Not necessarily.

If the primary goal of the campaign is to drive conversions (i.e., sign-ups, online sales, etc.), marketers need to implement conversion-based optimizations.  Keywords need to be evaluated on their conversion, or cost per acquisition (CPA), not their CPC. What good is a click if the consumer does not convert? When optimizing against conversion, the keywords that generate the cheapest conversions or assist in generating conversions in the purchase funnel, should receive a larger percent of the budget, regardless of their CPC.

If the campaign’s goal is to drive brand awareness or generate offline sales, it could be more difficult in measuring the effectiveness of a click, as marketers may not be sure that a paid search click definitely translates into offline sales. The good news is that there are many metrics that can help marketers evaluate user engagement, to determine if the people driven to their website are qualified visitors.

Some key engagement metrics include: dwell time, bounce rate and pages per visit. These metrics help marketers understand what visitors do once they land on the website. How much time do they spend on the site? Do they bounce off of the site right away? Do they visit multiple pages on the site? All of this valuable information can be analyzed at the keyword level which can help marketers optimize the campaign based on user engagement, not just price.

The key to a successful search engine marketing campaign is to find a balance among efficiency, volume and quality. Depending on the campaign goal, different metrics should be prioritized and set in motion to optimize the campaign and deliver the right audience.

Peggy Hsu, Digital Analyst, Blue Plate Media Services 

Published 05.22.13


Blue Plate Media Special Report: 2012 Toy Media Mix Under the Microscope

Toy media spending saw big changes in 2012. As we mentioned in Part 1 of our analysis, Toy advertising expenditures saw a year-over-year drop of 10.3% in Q4 and 9.3% for the overall 2012 calendar year. This analysis will look to shed light on the changes in overall media strategy that are impacted by the spending trends. Specifically, we will look at changes in spending by medium and the overall changes in media mix.

Changes in Spending

In reducing budgets, the Toy Industry dropped spending most severely in traditional media, such as TV, Radio, Magazines (consumer & trade), and Newspaper Inserts. Spending in these media decreased at a greater rate than total spending in both Q4 and total year. The total dollar volume drop for TV ($158.2MM) in 2012 exceeded the $129.5MM cut by the entire Toy Category.


When added together, cuts across all media channels totaled $175 million, 25% of which ended up in Internet spending. Outside of the small dollar volume increase in Newspapers, only Internet Display saw a budget increase (+$48MM) in 2012. 

Media Mix

When Toys need to advertise, TV remains the primary media of choice, followed by Internet Display and Magazines. These three media combined account for 97% of all Toy Industry media spending. That trend did not change from Q4 to Q4 or total year 2011 to 2012. All other media, including newspaper and Radio, account for 3% of spending. 


Source: Kantar Media Reports 2011-2012

Calendar year 2012 did see one major strategic change: the decline of TV support and a greater reliance on Internet in the non-holiday time period. While TV support composed 82% of spending in Q4, similar to the prior year, the Q1-2 time period saw TV fall from 67% to 58% of spending. This had the effect of driving TV to 71% of the mix for the year and Internet to 22%. It is important to note that digital media is under-represented in available media spending research, which only measures display (Internet banner ads) and does not yet capture Mobile and Social Media activity. Conservatively, we estimate that about 50% of Digital media spending is captured. Factoring that into the analysis, we would expect to see TV falling from 70% to 60% of the mix and digital rising to 36%.     

Diving into the individual toy categories, we find that all categories except Online Games utilize TV at 80-90% of spending. As one would expect Online Gaming utilizes Internet heavily (84%) and relegates TV to the number two spot at 13%. Among the most traditional, strategically, are Action figures, Arts/Crafts, Infant & Pre-school Toys and Plush. These categories see 97% of their budget in TV and Magazines. 

The Electronics/Video Games and Toy Vehicles categories have prioritized the Internet as their number 2 medium. Surprisingly, so have Dolls and Games (non-computerized), which include it at 5% and 4% respectively. 


With all the changes in media usage and shifts in shopping behavior, it is not surprising to see the Internet play a more expansive role in Toy media plans. As budgets have rolled back, the internet provides a highly targeted, engaging and cost efficient option in the Q1-Q3 time period. In Q4, its strategic role expands as a reach extender, product research enhancer and shopping trip interceptor. 

Looking ahead to 2013, we expect to see that trend increase across the year and perhaps more heavily at the Holidays.  It will be very interesting to see what happens this year, given how the media environment, led by the dominance of technology across all consumer touch points, is changing our media plans.  We must change with them.  We, for one, will be very interested to see how the category responds and performs next year.    

We hope you enjoyed this broad category view of Toy media spending, and media mix, in 2012, brought to you by Blue Plate Media Services.  If you would like more information, or to contract a more customized report for your brand and category, please contact a Blue Plate Media partner at info@blueplatemedia.net. 

Tim Jones, Media Director, Blue Plate Media 

Published 05.09.13