How to Grease a Chatbot: E-Commerce Companies Seek a Backdoor Into AI ResponsesRead more

Dec. 22, 2022 12:00 PM PST

In September, Simon Philips found himself in an uncomfortable situation: seated across the aisle from two small children on a 10-hour work flight from Los Angeles to London. “Oh, god. What are they going to do?” Philips remembers thinking. As a father of two, Philips knows how bored kids can behave. Moreover, he’s spent a career making and marketing toys at Marvel, Disney and, most recently, as managing director of Moonbug Entertainment, the parent company of YouTube sensations CoComelon and Blippi.

En route to England, Philips soon found he’d provided the answer to his own problem. “The minute they sat down, the parents put down an iPad with CoComelon and gave each of them CoComelon toys,” he said. The result: instant pacification. As for Phillips, the impact was even more profound: “When you actually see a kid playing with a toy, that’s the biggest sense of achievement somebody in this space can have.”

As YouTube, Instagram and TikTok creators increasingly lure kids away from the traditional cultural magnets of comic books, animated films and Saturday morning cartoons, the hit-hungry toy industry is following in kind. New toy lines based on online celebrities like 11-year-old YouTuber Ryan Kaji and branding empires like Moonbug are proliferating, opening up a new front in the holiday toy wars. Moonbug is by far the reigning king of kid merch with over $1 billion in retail sales this year; Kaji’s Ryan’s World is a distant runner-up with almost $200 million in sales.

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Microsoft's Satya Nadella, left, and Peter Lee. Photo by Bloomberg, Microsoft
How Microsoft Swallowed Its Pride to Make a Massive Bet on OpenAI
Satya Nadella didn’t want to hear it. Last December, Peter Lee, who oversees Microsoft’s sprawling research efforts, was briefing Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, and his deputies about a series of tests Microsoft had conducted of GPT-4, the then-unreleased new artificial intelligence large-language model built by OpenAI.
Art by Clark Miller
The AI Age e-commerce ai
How to Grease a Chatbot: E-Commerce Companies Seek a Backdoor Into AI Responses
When Andy Wilson’s company received its first successful client referral through ChatGPT, he was shaken to his core.
Chris Britt, co-founder and CEO of Chime.
Exclusive startups Finance
Chime’s Slowdown Highlights Limits of Bank Disruptors
Chime found a way to offer zero-fee banking services without being a bank itself. But that approach is starting to show its limits.
Art by Clark Miller
The Big Read markets Finance
The Master of Destruction Rides Again
In the spring of 2022, the irascible Wall Street short seller Marc Cohodes was in a particularly foul mood.
Art by Mike Sullivan
startups asia
Venture Capitalists Face Pressure to Divest From China
Silicon Valley venture capitalists are coming to terms with a new reality: Their once-prized China investments may be victims of a simmering cold war.
Art by Clark Miller.
Social Studies culture
The Day TikTok Went Dark in India
On June 29, 2020, as thunderstorms swept Mumbai and daily Covid-19 cases in India surged by almost 20,000, millions of people began experiencing a flood of network errors on their mobile devices.