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Greg Topalian on the Launch of Play Fair, His Unique Vision of a Convention for Kids

Published by on June 28, 2016 10:42 am
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A playful idea turned into a seriously big event

A version of this blog originally appeared on

Play Fair, a two-day celebration of all things fun and family, launched this past February alongside the North American International Toy Fair, the largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere. The organization’s first-ever kid and family-friendly event, sponsored by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and LeftField Media, offered immersive experiences that engaged attendees with their favorite toys, games, and entertainment brands, along with product reveals, photo ops, character interactions, stage performances, and more.

Greg Topalian, president of LeftField Media, tapped into his experience at Reed Exhibitions, where 10 years ago he started New York Comic-Con, to fuel this innovative concept. “My children attended New York Comic-Con almost every year, and they didn’t like it, not because it wasn’t a great show — it’s an amazing show — but they wanted a show for them,” he says. “And that’s what Play Fair is. A show for my children. I had a vision that no one had built anything that a 6-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old would really love. So I decided to build it.”

He discusses here the idea behind this new event and how he worked with the TIA to get it off the ground.

Q: Play Fair is a brand-new event in the toy business. What’s the goal here?

GT: Play Fair is a family-fun entertainment show. Consumer events like comic conventions and gaming conventions are quite popular, but my company, LeftField Media, and the Toy Industry Association both felt there was a huge void and opportunity for family entertainment, something that was more about toys and games, cartoons and animation.

Q: Why are events important today, when people can get everything they want and need to know on the Internet?

GT: It’s true, people can get everything on the Internet, and that’s the perfect way to position it. But the Internet doesn’t give you experience. It doesn’t give you human connection. These events give people the opportunity to really connect with the thing they love and to connect within a community. These brands are here because they want to create that connection with the fan at a base root level.

Q: So, what’s happening here at Play Fair?

GT: It’s entirely unique. We have brands like LEGO, Nickelodeon, Hasbro and Mattel all bringing their products to bear with experiential booths and events. They’re bringing characters and screening TV shows. It’s really all about a very different demographic.

Q: How does tying in with Toy Fair make sense?

GT: We felt that since Toy Fair is the most important show in the toy and family entertainment business-to-business in the U.S., that doing it right next door made a lot of sense. There’s already a lot of media attention. The brands are all there. So that was a perfect opportunity.

Q: What are you hearing from the exhibitors?

GT: A lot of the brands are telling us that Play Fair should take place in the fourth quarter, once we’ve proven the concept. They’re also saying they want to give it a lot of attention, and it is hard for them to do two things at once. We’re very happy we got it off the ground so aggressively, but we’re probably going to move it to another time of year.

Q: Toy Fair is international. Do you see Play Fair going international as well?

GT: First and foremost, we want to prove the concept, to show the brands that there is this huge fan desire to connect with their products. From there, we’ll look at whether it makes sense to do it in other cities in the U.S., and we’ll absolutely look at it internationally as well.

Q: So, what is the coolest thing here?

GT: It’s got to be the Batmobile from the newest Batman v. Superman movie!

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