Let’s Fix the Toy of the Year Awards

Richardglobalheader (4)
The Toy Industry Association is to be congratulated for putting on a successful Toy Fair.    According to the TIA, there were 100,000+ products on display and nearly 1,100 exhibitors.  It appears that we have a healthy industry made up of a wide variety of companies. 

So here is the big question, how is it possible that out of 100,000+ products and almost 1100 exhibitors Mattel managed to win 40% of the TOTY (Toy of the Year) awards?  How is it that 70% of the awards given out went to three publicly traded toy companies (Mattel, Hasbro and Leapfrog)?

And it’s not just this year.  Last year 80% of the awards went to four publicly traded companies (Hasbro, Mattel, Crayola and Leapfrog).

To get a comparison, consider the Nuremberg Toy Fair (Spielwarenmesse) awards.  This year’s winners (there were only 4) were Micro Mobility Systems, Spin Master, Lego and Hutter Trade GmbH.  Last years were (there were five) were Yookidoo, Vtech, Upper Deck, Revell and Playmobil.  I love the fact that I have never heard of some of these companies.

So what’s wrong with the TOTY awards?  Well, we know that the TIA has tried to open up the process; we know that those who vote for the awards do so in good faith and we know that these companies do indeed make great products; it is an honest exercise.  That’s the problem.  No matter how honest it is there is something wrong with the process when so few companies win so many awards.

Bottom line, it is depressing and disheartening to the rest of the industry to see so many award go to so few companies.  The TOTY Awards committee needs to take a hard look at its criteria, how it recruits candidates and what it wants to accomplish by giving out awards. 

I have a few ideas on how to fix it.  That in my next blog.



14 thoughts

  1. I loved visiting Disney World and Epcot Center with a ceollge friend, but I’ve been amazed ever since with the marketing methods of that business endeavor. They even offer students courses in marketing, and must have envisioned every way possible to get their characters and logos in front of people who spend money. A Disney store in a mall in larger cities is an experience in itself. My grandchildren, the granddaughters in particular, were princess obsessed for a while. And Disney is immitated by television series like Dora, the Explorer. I now avoid buying gifts via American Girl dolls-series. That is another sink-hole for your money, no matter how high the quality level.

  2. Any process that relies on non-kids to vote for toy of the year is flawed.
    The Toy Industry Association should stay neutral and develop much better ways for us to sort through the 100,000+ products.
    Experts like Richard should be able to submit their product reviews, opinions and ratings similar to how stock analysts track companies. Sure, one or more experts can be bought, but the transparency of such a process would make it obvious.

  3. I went to the TOTY awards a total of one time. During the event I had a High School flashback: Only the most popular and connected got their pictures in the yearbook, sat on the student government, or won a Homecoming crown. Nothing has changed. On TOTY night I go to a pub with 3 or 4 other outcasts. It’s cheaper and the banter is better!

  4. Finnaly! Someone has the courage ( Richard ) to point out the obvious : TIA ( by design ) is corrupt. Why? Because TIA gets its money from the big boys ( Mattel being the biggest ). So , as a result, TIA is slave to the big boys. MGA left TIA because , TIA , at urging of Mattel , discontinued the PEOPLE choice ( which Alan Hassenfeld called Oscars of the toy industry ) because MGA won it two years in a row and, embarrassingly for TIA ,the committee didn’t even nominate! Since then , TIA has asked me to join again year after year. I have agreed with one condition: give me a seat on the board. But!!! TIA has said no to that? Why? Carter and Bryan : what are you afraid of? That I will be outspoken? You bet I will be. Otherwise, this business which I love will go down the tube and decline year after year because of the old country club members and lack of innovation and newness. I’m thinking of starting ITIA. The ” I ” stands for independent. I bet a lot of small and innovative toy companies will join. Isaac larian, CEO MGA entertainment.

  5. Three cheers, Richard! I’ve agonized over the TOTY awards and how out of balance they’ve been. I do applaud the TIA for reaching out for ideas for change, and I know they are trying, but the changes made aren’t effective in this reality. I can’t wait to hear your ideas! I’ve suggest there be categories that require sales or units produced to be no more than X (small number), play value is evaluated in x,y,and z manner, the product is not distributed at mass stores as defined by xxx, and other ideas.

  6. Why stop with TOTY? There is so much Toy ‘Award Inflation” in our industry; in my humble opinion, it is on the verge of becoming meaningless.
    With no intent to harm the reputations of any of the following, here is just a partial list of toy awards:
    Dr Toy: Best 100 Toys, Best 40 for $10, Best Vacation Toys etc.,
    Oppenheim: Platinum and Gold Seals, Blue Chip and Snap, further divided into Infant, Toddler, Preschool etc.
    Parents Choice awards: Gold, Silver, Recommended, Approved Seals etc.
    Creative Child Magazine’s Awards Program.
    The Toy Man: Award of Excellence, eChoice etc.
    And of course the aforementioned TOTY and for the customers of http://www.PattycakeDoll.com the DOTY!
    I see all these toys with seals and stickers come into my warehouse, and wonder if Jane Consumer really gives a hoot? I don’t order at Toy Fair because it has a sticker on it, does she? Sure it feels good to win an award, but what are we really accomplishing?

  7. Good points Richard, lets give the toy inventors – or toy shops the vote. I invent toys and am more than happy to vote for things that I don’t make, but are pedagogically excellent.
    I all but ignore the awards – as agreed upon by the big companies to pat each other on the back for their big sales numbers. Lets take out all the branded and licensed things, they usually represent the least innovative items out there!
    No blame for being big, but generally big comapnies don’t take the chances, or create the educational items that our kids need (unless we all agree that another action figure or lego movie licensed kit is needed.

  8. Richard I think you should start the RGOTY awards – Richard’s Game of the Year Awards. If so I would like to submit Stomple. An abstract strategy that did pick up 9 awards in 2011 to include Mensa Select. We will see how it does in Germany this year. Of course I may be a little biased…

  9. This is a pervasive problem not only with the ToTY Awards but with the Origins Awards in the Hobby Game world as well. Each year this happens, the value of the awards decreases, until the point where fewer apply, and these awards become a meaningless sticker adorning a box.
    Until the issues you present are addressed – and embraced by the industry the awards will continue to mean less and degrade the credibility of the entire industry with each award.
    I am looking forward to seeing your solutions – but am tentative in my expectations of any change, as the problem is institutional, well outside the realm of control of most of the industry that have a bottom line that is impacted by the award program.
    Speaking from the game world – we currently train our customers that there are only 2 really significant awards that mean the products are great – the Mensa Select and the Spiel des Jahres; as they have maintained their credibility and market value.

  10. welcome to the world of big business. Get too big and they either buy you or rip you off. Perhaps ,Richard ,Lets do a Toys of the Year you have never heard of! or Missing Toys of the Year. After all a toy should be a toy and not license. RIchard, keep up the good work!

  11. Hi Richard –
    Thanks for your observations about the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards. This is an important program for the industry and TIA is committed to making it the best it can possibly be!
    As you note, a number of changes have already been made in the past couple of years … and we continue to look for ways to improve the process. In fact, members of the TOTY Planning Committee are already considering feedback that was received during our most recent nominations and balloting cycle. Our review will extend over the next few weeks; we look forward to receiving any input you and the readers of this blog would like to provide.
    Please send comments to sleistner@toyassociation.org and I’ll make sure the input gets passed along to members of the committee. Thanks in advance for any specific suggestions!
    Best wishes,
    Stacy Leistner
    Toy Industry Association

  12. I’ll admit as a blogger I never pay much attention to the TOTY Game of the Year awards because it doesn’t seem to really reflect what I believe is the best game. It definitely feels more that it’s the best selling game from the top manufacturers and great games aren’t always from the top manufacturers. I’m interested to see what your suggestions are in your next blog.

  13. Well said, Richard. I always have to temper my cynicism around TOTY time. For just one example, I think the ratio of price/play value should be a consideration in the TOTYs. This would automatically reduce the number of awards for licensed toys, which by their nature have less play value for the dollar. With so much innovation out there, it’s time to broaden the scope of these much-hyped awards.
    Ryan Hamilton
    President, Geared For Imagination

Leave a Reply