Session Summaries from Interactive Ontario’s INplay Conference

Last week, Interactive Ontario held the first INplay conference, connecting kids’ creative industries together to understand how to reach kids and families in a media-saturated world. There were three primary streams of content with distinct focuses: creativity, research, and business. Here are some of the highlights from a select few sessions and panels that were held during the event.

Toys, Toys, and Toys

Toys are an important part of play and this panel gazed into the future of toys. Benjamin Dermer of Spin Master, Adam Dunn of the Monster Factory, and Robin Raskin, the Founder of Living in Digital Times gave their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Ben said that certain categories of toys are driven by story, with the brand acting as the world the story is set in. He said the story is what connects children to a toy and is the key to growing a brand. But other toys like an airplane don’t need a story, since the reason to buy it is not a story, but what the toy really is. The kid just wants an airplane because he or she already likes airplanes.

There may be different types of toys, but Robin says that videogames and mobile are changing the face of the toy industry. The innovations in these spaces are providing new ways for children to play. The combination of toy and game like Webkinz, a stuffed animal that extends online, are blurring the line between toy and games. 

As the lines blur, the speakers all agreed that no one company can do it all. This means that a firm needs to pick the right partners in order to extend a toy and a brand into the numerous different avenues that are available to both children and parents in our modern dynamic world.

Digital Distribution South Park Style Case Study

Gerry Gouy, the Senior Director of New Business Development of International Digital Media for MTV presented how they have handled digital distribution for South Park. In 2006, MTV developed a set of guidelines on to deal with content online influenced by the rise of YouTube, iTunes, and other digital channels. 

With so many channels and duplicate content online, MTV believes that each platform had to add value or there was no point. In 2008 they launched a U.S. site where consumers could stream any episode from South Park’s entire 14 season history. Within a week of launch, they had served over 1 million full episode streams with similar results (proportionately) worldwide. In 6 months after launch, they had served over 55 million streams and it continues to grow.

Even with all the streams MTV found no negative impact on their traditional broadcast model or their other digital distribution channels. It actually had a mild upside for their digital distribution, which was a huge positive, considering the risks. They learned that it was about having the platforms work together by understanding the obvious and hidden relationships that exist between them and leveraging them as a whole.

Designing the Experience of a Children’s Museum Case Study

Amanda Billark and Melissa Houghton, Researchers at OCAD, set out to design a children’s museum and they started out with going over the benefits of play through focus groups. The focus group led them to the core values that would be the pillars of their design, which were imagine, make, learn, share, and collaborate. They built their engagement model based on 4 levels that characterize the types of participants, which were the playful observer, semi-active player, active player, and active creator.

After the engagement model, they wanted to know the process of how children experienced the museum. They wanted to make sure that this was an environment where everyone could get involved and no one was left on the sidelines. An online extension would allow families to extended the experience beyond the museum and leave them wanting to return to discover more.

This all led to a design for everyone, not only children. It would make use of guerrilla marketing, have interactive exhibits, wearable trackers for children, transitional spaces, and online engagement. It would be an experience to remember and inspire those children that took part.

Navigating the Mobile Matrix

Mobile and kids—do kids have phones? They may not, but their parents certainly do, and with the iPhone and advancements in general, the world is expanding for what parents are doing with mobile. In this presentation, it was said that 30% of iPhone owners are moms and that 60%, or nearly two-thirds, share their mobile with their kids. Will Weil, the CEO and Co-Founder of Tales2Go, said that the iPhone and its infrastructure made it easy for monetization to occur on the iPhone. 

The trick after monetization that Gary Schwartz, the President of Impact Mobile, asked was, is the future the app or is it the browser? Ultimately, as mobile browsers improve their ability to offer a rich media experience, they will be an attractive alternative to apps—but they also agreed that browsers are not at that point yet, and Apple remains the major player in mobile, with Android quickly on the rise. Mobile is moving so fast that kids’ content creators cannot ignore it or the impact it is having on children.

These were just a few of the sessions and panels that took place over the course of two days at INplay. They ended the conference coming full circle with Paul Reynolds, the Co-founder of Fablevision, and he told the audience his story and the importance in play for children and the child in all of us. It was the perfect way close out a great 2 days. While this was the first INplay conference, based on the feedback and content, it will not be the last.