It was late in the evening (well, late for me, anyway), and I found myself winding down at a lovely dinner that featured toy industry friends both old and new – including leaders from Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. All at the same table. It dawned on me that this was a fairly extraordinary turn of events. And I didn’t even have anything to sell!
Why was I there? Because I attended Playcon. The Toy Industry Association’s annual Spring event was held this year for the first time in Miami, and, while the weather was Miami-like (scorching sun, gusty ocean winds, drenching monsoon), the accommodations arranged by the TIA were delightful.
But the weather and the superior tapas were not the draw here. After a few years of fits and starts, the TIA has steadily improved the overall experience of Playcon. Its goal has always been to be a more relaxed opportunity for industry members to gather, learn, and connect. This year’s event drew manufacturers large and small, licensors, retailers, public relations executives, studios, inventors, analysts…even someone from the White House.
And while the roughly two days of activities were carefully calibrated to allow for networking, the presentations themselves were taut – filled with insights from Target, Netflix, Snapchat, Trendhunter, Barnes & Noble, NPD, Kantar Retail, and others. Did I mention Netflix? If you sought perspective on just about any issue you were facing in your business, chances are you would come away with ideas.
What you were sure to come away with, however, was a fistful of business cards. At breakfast or during breaks, you were very likely to find yourself meeting someone who had insights on inventions, or digital marketing programs, or new packaging materials…or the best steak joint in Miami Beach. If you engaged, you would come away from a “Playconversation” enriched and enlightened in some way.
Target’s Nik Nayar shared interesting perspective on why the Games category is so important to their guests. Trendhunter’s Jeremy Gutsche challenged attendees to better adapt to Millennial trends. Barnes & Noble’s Kathleen Campisano painted an engaging picture of a retailer redefining its commitment to its shoppers in pedagogical terms. And Netflix’s Andy Yeatman shared more insights into their kid viewership than any of us has heard before. Finally, Snapchat’s Marni Schapiro offered an eye-opening tutorial – guiding us through what was, for many of us, our first foray onto that enormously popular social media platform. I’m pretty sure the median age of Snapchat’s users spiked precipitously upward that afternoon. It’s over for them now.
That’s not even a complete list of the presenters, by the way. The days were packed, thanks to the event committee led by Playmonster’s Bob Wann and Hasbro’s Jane Ritson-Parsons.
You may have asked yourself over the years…what does the TIA do for us? Well, this is what they do. Give you a window of opportunity, a chance for connection, a bit of education. And great tapas.
I have, as they say, no dog in this fight. I attended not as a brand leader or licensor, retailer or inventor. I attended Playcon simply as a member of the industry, and I got more out of it than I could have imagined.
So this is call to those who didn’t make it this time – I’m talking to you – Disney, Cartoon Network, and JAKKS Pacific, among others. Don’t miss this. Be part of this event, and this community. We’ll all be richer for it.