The value of a TV moment

Adam Borton, Toy and Game School
The ‘TV moment’ derives from when TV was the most popular and important way to advertise toys and games. Today, that’s social media – although the phrase ‘TV moment’ still applies, just like some people still call a vacuum cleaner a ‘Hoover’.

So what is a ‘TV moment’?

It is a single point during a video – or when playing with a toy or game – when the most action is happening. It’s exciting, interesting and it grabs your attention. It encapsulates the toy or game in a single moment and while it doesn’t define everything about the toy or game, it’s usually the most memorable moment for players and viewers.

It can also be called the ‘payoff’; which is what happens when the tension, excitement, drama and suspense of playing with the toy or game lead up to a single moment where it all ‘pays off’.

Adam Borton, Toy and Game School
Creating toys and games with TV moments has been one of the key requirements of TV-advertised products in the past. This is because when the TV moment happens, it either grabs people’s attention or convinces them that they have to buy it – or their parents have to buy it!

The TV moment can either be at the start or end – or sometimes both – of the commercial, but it’s a very powerful technique.

Today, product videos and advertisements for toys and games are still used, but those videos are much more likely to be uploaded onto YouTube than broadcast on TV. The cost of advertising a toy or game on primetime TV in America can number in the millions of dollars, while uploading onto YouTube is free!

The difference is that media nowadays is much more fragmented, so it’s harder to get noticed in large numbers. The 10/15/20/30 second ‘TV ad’ style video with a TV moment is still valuable though, even on YouTube, as it’s a great summary of the product with exciting action and visuals. When it comes from the manufacturer of the toy or game, it also feels ‘official’.

The ‘TV moment’ isn’t applicable to all types of toys and games as they don’t all have payoffs and action. For example, many strategic board games are played with more thought, consideration and calmness – but that doesn’t mean a ‘TV moment’ or payoff can’t be incorporated into a video for dramatic effect.

‘TV moments’ can be created from toys and games that don’t have a traditional single action point in the gameplay. If it’s a card game or heavy strategy game, the action of simply winning can be the TV moment if it captures the excitement and joy of winning on the faces of the people playing. Adding dramatic sound effects to the video and the right camera shots can make all of the difference, just like an action movie vs an arthouse film.

In order to demonstrate the different ways a TV moment can be achieved, here are some examples of toys and games with TV moments. See if you can spot where the main TV moment is in each video:

Shark Bite is a kids’ skill and action game made by Goliath. The objective of the game is to reach into the mouth of the shark using your fishing rod and grab some objects from its mouth. If you pick up the wrong item, the shark springs up and tries to bite you!

This is the culmination of tension and suspense as the player doesn’t know which object to pull out – they’re carefully choosing and they’re nervous as they pull the object up. Suddenly, the shark starts moving and chaos ensues! Capturing the shark jumping up and the expression on the players’ face is what makes this such a fantastic TV moment!

Jenga is a classic family game made by Hasbro. The aim of the game is to push out a block and then use it to build the stack higher by placing it at the top – whilst keeping the whole tower of blocks balanced. The more blocks that are removed, the more wobbly the tower gets and the harder the game gets!

As the game progresses, the tension builds until someone topples the tower, causing a huge crash and providing a great TV moment!

Flushin’ Frenzy is a kids’ skill and action game by Mattel. The idea is that the toilet is blocked and it’s your job to help to clear it by plunging the plunger. When you ‘clear the blockage’, a poop pops out of the toilet tank and everyone must grab it for points.

The tension builds as no-one knows when it will pop up and everyone is waiting to grab it. The TV moment is when the poop jumps out of the tank and everyone is desperately trying to catch it!

Designing a toy or game to have a TV moment, or adding one in through the players actions or expressions, makes a huge difference to the appeal of a sizzle video or advertisement featuring that product. It grabs the attention of the person watching and makes them remember that toy or game – and hopefully leads to them buying or licensing it!

If you want to learn more about toys and games, including the industry and the process of creating them, visit to sign up – currently in Early Access!

Adam Borton, Toy and Game School
Adam Borton, Toy and Game School
Adam Borton, Toy and Game School
Adam Borton, Toy and Game School

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