Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS                                Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom during the North American International Toy Fair in New York. The toy records and stores conversations between kids and their dolls to improve speech-recognition technology and help its makers create more relevant automated responses for kids. Parents concerned about privacy can review and delete those conversations by visiting a website.

Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom during the North American International Toy Fair in New York. The toy records and stores conversations between kids and their dolls to improve speech-recognition technology and help its makers create more relevant automated responses for kids. Parents concerned about privacy can review and delete those conversations by visiting a website.

Toy makers turn to YouTube influencers to advertise ahead of holidays

VANCOUVER — Like many kids, Ryan spends his time playing with toys. But, unlike most of his peers, millions of people watch the six-year-old boy open and test toys — a performance that has earned him millions of dollars.

Ryan ToysReview is one of several YouTube channels devoted to unboxing and reviewing toys that has caught the attention of manufacturers. Toy companies that once targeted children watching TV after school have started collaborating with so-called social media influencers, like Ryan, to advertise their products.

“They’re more well-known with kids than celebrities — traditional celebrities,” said Tara Tucker, vice-president of global marketing communications for Canadian toy maker Spin Master (TSX:TOY).

Ryan’s channel, for example, boasts nearly 10.2 million subscribers and viewers have watched his uploads nearly 17 billion times. Forbes estimates he’s the eighth highest-paid YouTuber of 2017, collecting a cool $14.1 million.

Spin Master gave the pint-size millionaire a sneak peek of its Soggy Doggy game at a toy fair for influencers. The family created a 10-minute video of them playing and uploaded it in early October.

It’s been viewed nearly six million times since.

While Spin Master did not provide Ryan the toy free of charge in this case, the company says it has worked with him on a paid basis before.

The Toronto-based company, whose brainchild Hatchimals was last year’s must-have holiday toy, started working with influencers about five years ago.

“It’s just grown exponentially,” said Tucker, adding Spin Master increased the number of influencer campaigns it conducted this year by 50 per cent over 2016.

The shift to include YouTube in a company’s marketing strategy comes as children increasingly choose to watch the online video platform and consumers turn to it for shopping recommendations, she said.

Research repeatedly shows kids spend more time online than in front of a TV screen.

Meanwhile, Canadians of all ages looking for inspirations for holiday purchases are most influenced by social media channels, according to a report from PwC Canada. Nearly half of Canadians considered Facebook the most influential, it found, with YouTube in second place at 29 per cent.

PwC’s American report showed younger members of Generation Z, those 13 to 16 years old, overwhelmingly found YouTube to be the most influential at 72 per cent.

The busiest season for social media campaigns is definitely the holidays, said Tiffany Kayar, communications media manager for WowWee Group Ltd., maker of Fingerlings, this year’s hottest holiday pick.

The Hong Kong-based company recently partnered with influencers to introduce Fingerlings — animatronic baby animals that cling to a child’s finger created by its Montreal team— to North American consumers. The company sent some of their partners banana-shaped pinatas with the toy inside and left it up to individual influencers to create a video narrative using the prop, said Kayar.

The company looks to work with YouTubers who engage with their audiences, Kayar said, adding one of the indicators it looks for is the number of comments left on their videos and whether they respond.

While audience size is important, Spin Master’s Tucker stresses certain products call for working with influencers with a smaller following in a specific niche.

For example, to promote its Star Wars Hero Droid BB-8 — an interactive, nearly 41-centimetre tall droid that follows its owner around — Spin Master partnered with a channel with slightly less than 130,000 subscribers. The video by Toy, Gadget and Product Reviews by Dad Does received about 15,000 views, 104 likes and 21 comments since late September.

However, partnering with smaller channels like Dad Does allowed the company to reach its target audience of Star Wars fans, pop culture junkies and tech enthusiasts, Tucker said.

“Who best to work with but those that are Star Wars aficionados, that have a voice to other Star Wars fans and fanatics?”

Depending on the campaign, the companies will either give the YouTuber a free product or financial compensation.

What was once an argument over whether to spend money on influencer payouts has since become an easier conversation, said Kayar.

She said she first started to see the shift to social media marketing when the platforms began to influence toy trends.

Fingerlings, for example, were inspired by a viral video of a finger monkey, she said. The pygmy marmoset is the world’s smallest monkey and images abound online of the tiny creature gripping onto a human finger.

Hatchimals, on the other hand, were inspired by the YouTube trend of unboxing videos.

Toy makers asked themselves “what if a toy could unbox itself?” Tucker said.

“And the idea of Hatchimals was hatched.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Researchers look over a map aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sets sail in the North Pacific Ocean toward the Bering Strait to traverse the Arctic's Northwest Passage on July 6, 2017. The Canadian government wants more study on the impacts of banning heavy fuel oil in the Arctic before it signs on to an international agreement to do so. It has been 16 months since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then U.S. President Barack Obama jointly committed to phase down the use of heavy fuel oils in the Arctic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David Goldman
‘You cannot claim any more:’ Russia seeks bigger piece of Arctic Ocean seabed

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Russia wants to stretch out imaginary lines on the… Continue reading

The Queen, centre, Prince Philip, right, and Princess Anne relax as they sail to Victoria, B.C., on May 3, 1971 accompanied out of Vancouver harbour by numerous small craft. Prince Philip, the Queen's husband of more than 70 years, passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday, Buckingham Palace announced. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Croke
Andrew: Philip’s death has left ‘huge void’ in queen’s life

LONDON — The death of Prince Philip has left a “huge void”… Continue reading

Most Read