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Media Awards gives proof with the pudding

For Evanston, Illinois-based iParenting Media Awards, it's not about who you're wearing, but how your kids product holds up in the real world. Four times a year, the independent review body puts out a call for entries on its website (www.iparentingmediaawards.com), asking kids industry players to submit samples of their products for an extensive 40-day study. While entrants don't compete against each other to create winners and losers, products with enough positive feedback receive both an award and written evaluations from three independent observers. Consider it market research with a prize.
May 1, 2006

For Evanston, Illinois-based iParenting Media Awards, it’s not about who you’re wearing, but how your kids product holds up in the real world. Four times a year, the independent review body puts out a call for entries on its website (www.iparentingmediaawards.com), asking kids industry players to submit samples of their products for an extensive 40-day study. While entrants don’t compete against each other to create winners and losers, products with enough positive feedback receive both an award and written evaluations from three independent observers. Consider it market research with a prize.

The idea for the awards was prompted by the deluge of free product samples received annually by the Parent Today website, one of iParenting’s 40 websites dedicated to family and children. Rather than reviewing the products in-house, iParenting’s co-founder Alvin All applied his market research background to construct a system that objectively analyzes the effectiveness of each item. And once the team created a review setup that included running product by researchers, home users and industry experts, it signed up for ISO 9000 certification, and now uses these international product control standards to review the entries.

It works like this: The creator/manufacturer fills out an on-line application and if it’s accepted for evaluation, four identical copies of the sample must be sent to the iParenting head office along with a US$250 entry fee. iParenting’s executive committee keeps one copy to review, another is given to a parent, the third to a group (including schools or licensed preschools), and the final copy gets shipped to educated experts in the appropriate product category, which can include television, video games, and toys.

The reviewers are asked to put the product through its paces before completing the questionnaire, which respondents can take up to 40 days to complete. It typically contains about 70 questions, but participating companies don’t get an opportunity to read all of the close-ended answers. iParenting, however, will provide feedback from the answers to three open-ended questions: What’s the most positive characteristic; what’s the most challenging aspect of the product, and how would you change it?

Companies can push the market research aspect of the questionnaire process a bit further and submit their own open-ended question for inclusion in the survey. For example, those submitting a DVD for review could ask the respondents to describe their impressions of a certain character or what they thought about the opening sequence.

Even though companies such as Cookie Jar and Discovery Kids have captured awards, All suggests it’s a good way for a smaller company to get some research results without having to commit to expensive quantitative studies. He points to the non-animated DTV series Kid Fitness (pictured above), which was submitted without any deals in place. The East Islip, New York-based production house used its iParenting Media award from 2005 as a springboard to capture airtime on PBS affiliates in the States soon afterward.

Of course not every entry wins. All says each category has its own scorecard, and products that pass the threshold receive the award. There aren’t a set number of winners each year, as the field varies in size depending on the number of products deemed outstanding. Winners receive a certificate and a complimentary supply of award stickers to use on demo units being presented to retailers. Products that don’t win receive the market research information and the opportunity to try again in the next round.

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