Report from Blue Plate Media – Part One: 2012 Toy Media Spend Under the Microscope

April 26, 2013 | Toy categories with flat to highest sales increases in 2012 were those who maintained or increased media spending throughout the year, according to Blue Plate Media Services (BPMS), an affinity partner of the Toy Industry Association (TIA).

“Based on 2012 toy sales results from The NPD Group and toy advertising expenditure data released by Kantar Media, one of the big differences between the winners and the losers is advertising investment,” stated David  Becker, president of BPMS.

The following is a special report on toy media spend from BPMS:

Lower Q4 Ad Expenditures Caps Off Down Year for Toy Spending

The 2012 Holiday toy season was tough by most measures. Ongoing economic fears and Super Storm Sandy drove an overall weak performance for the quarter, aided and abetted by decreased advertising activity. Toy advertising expenditures declined by 10.3%  in the fourth quarter of 2012 versus the same time period one year ago, finishing the quarter with $656.8 million dollars in media spending according to Kantar Media. Only three categories, Hobby Crafts, Action Figures and Online Games increased spending year-over-year. 

Toy Advertising Expenditures Declined in 2012 Down to 2010 Levels

Total spending for the year declined by 9.3% to $1.26 billion, wiping out the 9.5% increase in spending seen in 2011. Out of 61 measured categories, the toy category had the 6th largest decline overall.

In 2012 traditional toys took the back seat as digital categories again led the way in advertising investment. Electronics, Video Games & Software (excluding PC/online) and Online Games topped the list of highest spenders.

Among the top 5 categories, only Online Games increased spending in Q4 and total year 2012. Dolls and Infant & Preschool were essentially flat. The weak demand in the video game console business was reflected in the almost 18% drop in year-over-year spending. Also of note, Arts/Crafts/Activity toys decreased their measured media budget by 12.5% after having increased spending in 2010 by 7.8%.  

Media spending changes were not limited to the top 5 largest categories.  Looking across the eleven Toy categories measured by Kantar, we find that two categories, Hobby Craft and Action Figures increased media budgets by 46% in the fourth quarter and ended the year up 72% and 27% respectively.

The bottom five categories to cut media spending in 2012 were led by Traditional Toys, Plush, Trading Cards, Non-computerized Games and Arts/Crafts/Activity Toys, which slashed spending by 20%-56% in Q4 and the total year.


Bright Spots

News reports have indicated toy sales were flat to slightly down year-over-year, however a review of sales results from NPD indicates there were a few bright spots. The NPD Group estimates that toy retail sales slid by 0.6% in 2012 with a handful of categories enjoying gains versus 2011.

A review of the NPD results, and the corresponding toy advertising spending from Kantar, shine the light on advertising investment as a key driver of sales growth.

“The lone exception was the Arts and Crafts category, which cut spending by almost 27% but saw a reported 7% jump in sales – a result that owes much to increased demand for kid’s activities in a down economy as well as severe weather that occupied much of the country from October to December,” said Becker.



The categories with the largest sales declines slashed media spending. The biggest impact was seen in Plush, down 56% in media spending, and Outdoor Activities, down almost 41% – two categories that saw sales decline by a reported 12.6% and 8%, respectively.

Stay tuned for BPM’s follow-up report on key findings related to the media mix across toy categories.


A full-service media planning and buying agency specializing in connecting with kids and moms, Blue Plate Media Services is celebrating its 9th year as strategic media partner with Toy Industry Association.  BPM offers TIA members free consultations on media research and highly targeted, integrated solutions across the media landscape. For more information or for a media consultation, visit the BPM website or contact BPM's David Becker (908-918-0202).