Report from Blue Plate Media – Part Two:  2012 Toy Media Mix Under the Microscope

May 6, 2013 |Toy companies with limited advertising budgets are leveraging the Internet as a highly targeted, engaging and cost-efficient advertising medium, according to an analysis of media strategy trends conducted by Blue Plate Media Services (BPMS), an affinity partner of the Toy Industry Association (TIA).

“Our analysis indicates that the Internet is playing a more expansive role in toy company media plans, as Television loses traction, particularly in the non-holiday timeframe,” stated David Becker, president of BPMS. 

In a follow-up to a special report on 2012 toy media expenditures, the latest analysis from BPMS looks at changes in spending by medium and overall changes in the media mix for both Calendar Year and Fourth Quarter 2012:

Changes in Spending 

Toy media spending saw big changes in 2012. As mentioned in Part 1 of the BPMS analysis, toy advertising expenditures saw a year-over-year drop of 10.3% in Q4 and 9.3% for the overall 2012 calendar year.

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 (online banner ads) saw a budget increase (+$48MM) in 2012.

Media Mix

Although spending on TV ads dropped, the televised medium 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 2011 to 2012, for neither Q4 nor total year. All other media, including Newspaper and Radio, account for 3% of total spending.

Calendar year 2012 did see one major strategic change: the decline of TV support and a greater reliance on the Internet in the non-holiday time period.

While TV support comprised 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 (online 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 the Internet heavily (84%), relegating TV to the number two spot at 13%. Among the most traditional in media expenditures, 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, BPMS finds it unsurprising to see the Internet play a more expansive role in toy media plans. As budgets have rolled back, the internet provides a highly 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, BPMS expects to see that trend increase across the year and perhaps more heavily during the Q4 holiday period.  Companies are well-advised to adapt their media plans to the new media environment, which is clearly being led by the dominance of technology across all consumer touch points.

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).