PlayCon 2014 Delivers Enriching Seminars and Networking Activities

May 13, 2014 | Leaders from across the toy, play, and youth entertainment industries gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona last week to partake in content-rich educational sessions and business networking activities at PlayCon, the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) International Conference of Play Professionals.

Held at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, the event kicked off on Wednesday evening, May 7th, with a welcome reception and dinner that included opening remarks from Bob Wann, CEO of Patch Products and chair of the PlayCon Committee. Wann greeted 170 attendees from 106 organizations and promised two jam-packed days of invaluable content covering a range of topics pertinent to play professionals – including marketing and branding, customer engagement, licensing, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, industry innovation, and more.

Bright and early the following morning (Thursday, May 8th), Doug Van Andel, Executive Creative Director at global marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi, delivered the event’s keynote address, highlighting the importance of creatively enticing and inspiring the emotions, memories and experiences of shoppers to promote brand loyalty and “yield transformational results.”

Later that day, Russ Crupnick, SVP of industry analysis at The NPD Group, revealed toy and game sales data to help attendees better understand the current buying landscape.  Crupnick noted that while traditional game categories continue to hold value, innovation is “the path to growth,” as kids are increasingly asking parents for robotics, interactive tech toys and gaming hybrids. Crupnick added that TV and brick-and-mortar retailers have less influence on toy and game purchase decisions, while digital media— such as apps and YouTube – are driving desire among children. 

On Friday, May 9th, the educational sessions kicked off with a toy licensing presentation led by Tom McGrath, owner of TMG consulting, who drove home the importance of “aspirational fantasy” in creating kid-friendly content.  “Kids have to want to BE the lead hero … and play out the hero’s adventures with toys,” said McGrath, citing Disney’s Frozen as an example of a movie with a “superb” aspirational storyline involving two princesses. McGrath added that Star Wars Episode VII, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World are among the top movies of 2015 that will drive licensed toy purchases next year.

Following the licensing presentation, Brian Meece, CEO of RocketHub, shared crowdfunding success stories and described how “small contributions from lots of people can equal creative success;” while Caleb Light-Wills, SVP of Product at Tongal, described the significance of “crowdsourcing.” Light-Wills emphasized that “content that is consumed in new ways … needs to be created in new ways” by tapping into a “global creative network.”

A variety of additional educational presentations were held throughout the event; several networking meals and activities also took place, allowing participants to mingle and connect with both familiar and new faces in a relaxed atmosphere.

“PlayCon once again proved itself to be an impactful conference providing attendees with rich, practical content that they can leverage to grow and evolve their own companies!” Marian Bossard, TIA vice president of meetings and events.

PlayCon 2015 will be held April 29 to May 1 at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. Information will be made available on the TIA website in the coming months.