PERSPECTIVES: A Conversation with Chris Sherman, Founder and CEO
of Engage Digital
April 2, 2012 | As the Founder and CEO of Engage
Digital, Chris Sherman is on the cutting edge of play and technology.
His company executes trade shows featuring the latest in
business-to-consumer commerce. Engage Digital’s upcoming 6th
annual Digital Kids Conference will be held in Los Angeles from April
25-26, 2012; it’s the largest gathering of professionals engaged
in building online and mobile products and services for kids. Toy
News Tuesday editors sat down with Chris to learn about the
significance of this conference in our hyper-digital age.
TNT: Digital Kids Conference was previously called Engage!
Expo. Can you tell us a bit about how the conference has changed and
CS: We’ve rebranded the conference due to the
skyrocketing use of mobile and online devices by kids –children
and “screenagers” are now among the most active users of
smartphones and tablets.
To paint the picture a little bit clearer … the Pew
Research Center reports that today, 77% of teens have cell phones and
that the average teen with a phone sends 60 texts per day, up from an
average of 50 texts in 2009, and half of children under eight now have
access to mobile devices. Even toddlers and preschoolers are getting in
on the game – apps for very young kids grew by 23% over the last
In light of this, we have re-focused the content of the conference so
that we can help companies position themselves for success in the
hyper-connected youth market.
TNT: What can conference goers expect to learn?
CS: In a nutshell, we’ll be looking at how
information is instantaneously accessed by kids across a broad spectrum
of platforms, with the help of panels, presentations and interviews that
will highlight best practices, trends, business strategies and
techniques for developing and marketing toys, games and more to
digitally connected kids and youth. This event is an ideal
opportunity to connect with peers across various industries and get new
business done while attending conference tracks focused on Business, Content, Market Research, Operations and Safety.
In all, 80+ speakers from industry-leading producers of kid-related
digital content, services and software will address everything from
games, mobile and tablet apps, virtual worlds, social media, and
more. Participating companies include Spin Master, Disney, LEGO,
Sony Online, KIDZBOP, Mind Candy, Peanuts, Rovio/Angry Birds,
Wizard101/KingsIsle, National Football League, Cartoon Network, Ubisoft,
Cookie Jar, Google, Yahoo! Kids and The NPD Group among many others.
No matter what starting point, the 6th annual Digital Kids Conference
will help participants make the most of their ventures.
TNT: What important things can toy industry stakeholders take
away from this event?
CS: With regulatory scrutiny heating up following
the disappointing findings in the FTC's Mobile Apps for Kids Report,
children’s online and mobile safety will be a major focus of this
year’s event and will provide a unique opportunity for businesses
to gain the critical knowledge they need to safely engage with children
via digital platforms.
We will be offering a first-of-its-kind, day-long forum on the
opening day of the conference (April 25th), called the Digital Kids
Safety Track, co-produced with the kidSAFE® Seal Program. This track will address
issues challenging the operators of social networks, online games,
mobile apps, virtual worlds, and related products and services for kids
and youth, and feature a panel discussion with representatives from the
FTC and State of California Special Attorney General's office, who will
address the unique set of safety and privacy concerns the mobile space
presents for children and how new COPPA (Children’s Online
Protection Privacy Act) requirements could affect compliance.
TNT: Can you give us a “sneak peek” at some of
the business strategies that will be revealed over the two
CS: I can’t give it all away before the event,
but I can tell you that attendees will learn how to grow their brands by
successfully blending their virtual and offline worlds. While it’s
great to use digital platforms, it’s no longer sufficient to
simply tap into online applications… Digitally-connected
toys and games need to integrate with additional channels, like
licensing, in order to grow.
TNT: Who will be delivering the keynote
CS: Todd Coleman and Josef Hall, co-creators of
KingsIsle Entertainment’s popular online game, Wizard101, will
deliver the opening day keynote address – From
Hardcore Gaming to the Kids Market. They'll discuss how they moved
from the world of massive multiplayer online games and achieved critical
and commercial success with the #1 AAA family-friendly online social
game in North America.
Disney Mobile's SVP and General Manager, Bart Decrem, will deliver
the second day keynote address, called Growing Up Mobile – Developing a Global Franchise
for the Mobile Generation. Decrem leads the business unit behind the
wildly successful ‘Where’s My Water?’ mobile gaming
phenomenon. He will discuss how content producers are changing their
ways to reach a generation growing up with mobile and tablet devices as
their screens of choice. He will also delve into how entertainment
companies like Disney are changing their character development and
consumer experiences to serve their next generation of guests.
Endorsed by the Toy Industry Association, the Digital Kids
Conference is offering a discounted rate for TIA members with discount
codes DKTIA1 ($100 off one day at the conference) or DKTIA2 ($200 off
two days at the conference). Registration can be completed online; visit www.digitalkidscon.com
for more information.