A group of young YouTubers is revolutionizing the toy industry and raking in millions of dollars in profits in the process.
According to industry experts, at a time when toy sales have hit a long-term period of stagnation – profits have remained at $22 billion for a number of years – children who review the latest and greatest creations on YouTube are wielding increasing influence over the industry, thanks to their incredible viewing figures and ability to sell almost any toy around.
Some of the world’s biggest toy makers have begun courting YouTube’s most popular child stars in the hopes that they will be able to better connect with a generation that views the online video shows as much – if not more – than they do the most popular shows on TV.
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Mini millionaire: According to Business Insider, eight-year-old Evan earns more than $1.3m from his YouTube channels
Family business: Evan (L) and his younger sister Jillian both make videos for the YouTube channel
‘Kids trust other kids more so than they would an adult,’ says Marc Rosenberg, a Chicago-based toy consultant.
Leading the pack of pint-sized YouTube personalities is eight-year-old Evan, who started his first YouTube channel three years ago along with his father Jared. Three YouTube channels later and Evan – whose younger sister Jillian also appears in his videos – has amassed more than 1 billion views and boasts nearly 1 million subscribers for his main toy review channel alone.
EvanTubeHD, which features special effects created by his dad, who runs a video production company full-time, is known for telling kids how to play with toys. Evan speaks directly to them, offering his thoughts and opinions on each plaything.
The youngster appears completely confident in front of the camera, giving just a few occasional reminders of his young age. In a review of Angry Birds Space Softee Dough playset, Evan apologized for a noticeable lisp throughout the recording, saying: ‘Sorry if I’m talking a little funny today because I just lost my tooth.’
According to Business Insider, Evan’s three YouTube channels – which include his main toy review channel, a gaming channel and a vlogging channel – currently make the young star more than $1.3 million dollars each year.
Behind Evan are a few other young YouTube prodigies. Most of the children are identified by first name because their parents don’t want to risk their safety.
Beauty guru: In addition to her toy reviews, 11-year-old Emma, who stars alongside her siblings on YouTube channel KittiesMama, also does costume and make-up tutorials
Siblings Noah, 14, Jonah, 12, and Emma, 11 star in KittiesMama, which has nearly 400 million views. The online reality show, which is made with the help of the trio’s parents, chronicles the kids’ daily lives, including birthday parties, shopping trips and extra curricular activites. They also review toys and beauty lover Emma shows kids howto dress up like their favorite toys.
Gracie Hunter, 11, pairs up with her mother, Melissa, in ‘Mommy and Gracie,’ which has close to 90 million views. Gracie, an enthusiastic and energetic redhead, searches for hard-to-find dolls with her mom. They’ve even traveled to Canada from their New Jersey home in order to find a rare Monster High doll.
RadioJH Audrey, which is run by 11-year-old toy fan Audrey, has over 60 million views. The youngster has found herself particularly popular with tweens and offers slightly more ‘mature’ reviews of her toys – frequently throwing in words like ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ into her videos.
Mother and daughter: Grace and her mother Melissa search for rare dolls and travel across the country in order to find them
Money makers: The pair have never revealed just how much profit their YouTube channel generates but the two are estimated to be among the top earners
She also streaks her bobbed hair in a rainbow of colors and wears big jewelry and studded tees. Audrey’s trademark: reviewing mystery toy bags that are sold at places like Toys R Us.
Julie Krueger, industry director of retail at Google, which owns YouTube, says the channels have ‘huge followings of fans’ and many of the world’s biggest toy manufacturers have noticed.
In fact, Canada-based toy company Spin Master says Evan’s reviews helped boost sales of its Spy Gear toys 65 percent this year. The private company declined to disclose sales numbers.
From playtime to profits: Evan’s younger sister Jillian (pictured with their mother) is started to bring in her own viewers, thanks to her reviews of the latest girls’ toys
‘It gives the item more widespread exposure,’ says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief and CEO of TTPM.com, a toy review website.
Toy makers regularly send the young reviewers products – and some have even inked paid marketing deals with them and their parents.
Spin Master hired Evan to appear in a TV ad for its latest Spy Gear toys, Anki, which makes robotic toy cars, teamed up with Evan and KittiesMama for reviews on a race car, while WowWee is working with ‘Mommy and Gracie’ on promotional videos for Elektrokidz collectible dolls.
Stay in school: The KittiesMama channel documents almost every aspect of the children’s lives, including back-to-school supply shopping
The parents and companies have all declined to disclose financial terms, however most of the parents, who also declined to say how much ad revenue the channels make, have quit their jobs in order to focus on the booming homemade businesses.
But Mr Rosenberg says kids ‘risk crossing the line of trust’ with their audience when deals are made with toy makers. For their part, the toy brands say that they’re careful to preserve the kids’ voices.
Spin Master’s chief marketing officer, Krista DiBeradino, says it tries to maintain ‘the authenticity intended with each relationship.’
Parents also say they try to maintain authenticity. Jason, the father behind RadioJH, says the channel is doing so well with ad revenue that he doesn’t focus on partnerships, while Jennifer, the mother behind KittiesMamma, says she’d only partner with brands that her kids enjoy.
Tween queen: 11-year-old Audrey appeals to a slightly older audience and often reviews toys that are aimed at more mature fans
Melissa Hunter of ‘Mommy and Gracie’ says her family will only accept deals to benefit children’s charities.
‘We aren’t just faces for hire,’ she says.
Evan’s dad, Jared, says he works with partners that resonate with the audience and that he invests any money that the channels make toward his children’s futures.
‘It’s kind of surreal,’ he says of his family’s YouTube success, while Evan added: ‘I didn’t think it would turn out like this when I first made the channel. I thought I would just get four views.’