Friday, December 31, 2010

How We Perceive Games and Toys (Redux)

Two years ago I wrote an entry (Welcome to Gameland) bemoaning the way society is portrayed in the marketing of toys and games. My complaint (if you want to call it that) was that in marketing, the target audience for toys and games are portrayed -- to an overwhelming extent -- as children playing by themselves, almost never with adults.

Well, the next holiday season came and went. So I thought it might be interesting to see if the previous year's advertising was an anomaly or not. So I took five catalogs we received over the last Christmas holiday (2009)  and repeated the experiment. Four of the catalogs were dedicated solely to toys for children and one, Sears, had a significant toy section. I counted the number of images of people using the advertised products, determining how many were:

  • Children pictured alone
  • Children in a group of two or more
  • Groups of children and adults together
The catalogs I analyzed were ImagineToys, Met Kids, Sears Wishbook, Target Toys, and Toys R Us. I was surprised -- pleasantly so -- to see a significant change. The number of  pictures depicting children playing together increased from 12% to 21%. The number of pictures of children playing with adults went from zero to 4%.

Not only are there more images of children playing together and with parents, the increase applies almost across the board. Of the catalogs I surveyed, only MetKids predominantly depicted children playing by themselves.

Obviously, showing children by themselves does not necessarily mean you don't think they play with others. Hiring two models is more expensive than hiring one. But it is interesting that there seems to be a shift to re-emphasizing the utility of toys for group interaction.

Of particular note, (although I didn't capture the numbers to prove it, it is just an interesting side note) many of the pictures of groups of children with adults involved outdoor play structures such as swing sets, sand boxes, and outdoor sports equipment.

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