Cartoon Network's VP Johanne Broadfield on the business of comedy and the return of Powerpuff Girls

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

October 12th 2015 at 10:14AM
Cartoon Network's VP Johanne Broadfield on the business of comedy and the return of Powerpuff Girls

With Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball and the return of The Powerpuff Girls, it's no wonder Cartoon Network is laughing. Johanne Broadfield, VP of Cartoon Network talks us through what's in store for the coming year.

Tell us something about yourself, Jo.

I joined Cartoon Network Enterprises in February last year after working with Mattel for over ten years. I have two wonderful children who’ve grown up with the joys of a mum who works in the licensing business: so needless to say there’s no shortage of toys and product in our house. At eight and nine they’re big fans of Cartoon Network…or at least they have to tell me that.

What is there to be exctied about from Cartoon Network at the moment?

This is a very exciting time for our business. In the last two years we have seen two of our original brands, Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball really begin to take off, with Adventure Time becoming the “one to watch” for all of us in the licensing world and Gumball performing exceptionally well on the channel and in the digital space.

We’re also in the process of reintroducing The Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10, both of which have set a standard for kids’ entertainment and licensing in the past, and we’re saluting new content in the form of We Bare Bears, a new show that will make its debut at BLE.

Are we seeing Cartoon Network revisting the success of its heritage and going back to its roots?

Cartoon Network never left its roots. But we are definitely celebrating them more than ever right now. The recent revivals of some of our most popular original series and the success of shows like Adventure Time reinforce exactly what the channel does best – entertain people with funny, clever, original, irreverent shows.

What’s also brilliant is how these shows have evolved into product, games, experiences, events and retail success stories.

What challenges do you face in translatin the humour of the CN content into licensed products?

I would say any show’s chance of success in the licensing arena is dependent on many factors – the category the show sits in is less important than how it resonates with the audience; what it means to them.

Cartoon Network is about laugh-out-loud entertainment and a place where the unexpected and unpredictable are completely normal - and, if you dig a bit deeper into our most successful shows, you experience outstanding and highly engaging storytelling and a rich portfolio of characters with whom the audience can connect.

It’s the strength of that connection which opens opportunities in licensing. The other driving factor is social currency – our shows are cool without trying to be. That’s a great mix for a successful consumer products programme.

The humour of Cartoon Network beams ‘kids only’ but of course it’s not only enjoyed by kids – the strength of shows like Adventure Time is that whole families are watching and laughing at it together. This collective experience, the ‘in joke’ if you like, also opens up a whole world of opportunities for partners.

So how do licensees and retailers scratch the surface and get under the skin of brands like Adventure Time?

For Adventure Time, our roll-out strategy led with young adults and then moved to kids. What’s exciting is that, since this initial roll-out, we’ve seen the brand evolve from the niche retail space into the mass market – across men and women, boys and girls.

This is an ongoing success story for us and it’s is down to Cartoon Network’s pride in thinking like its fans. That’s what we would encourage all of our partners to do too. We offer a completely immersive kids experience and original, funny animation is what we do best.

What’s more, thanks to our Franchise Management team, brands like Adventure Time and its host of hugely popular characters have been developed to the highest degree and across every multi-platform – giving our current and prospective partners a wealth of resources to tap into to get under the brand’s skin.   

Let’s talk brand revivals. The Powerpuff Girls and Ben 10 are back?

Yes. We have been completely overwhelmed by the positive reaction to these announcements. I think there is a particular thirst for strong properties for girls at the moment so this is the perfect time for The Powerpuff Girls, arguably the first and therefore the most credible super hero property for girls.  

Over the next few months we’ll be able to talk in more detail about the new series. We have announced Spin Master as our global master toy licensee and Moschino as the first fashion partner. 

We’re also excited to introduce Ben 10 to a new generation of boys, with fresh, new animation and Playmates as the master toy licensee. This is a brand that generated $4.5 billion at retail so it will be getting a lot of attention from the entire Cartoon Network team.

Aside from Adventure Time and the revivals, what’s cooking at Cartoon Network?

Never forget The Amazing World of Gumball – another highly original show with a unique mixed media style featuring CGI, claymation and 2D graphics set against real world backgrounds.

The show has won critical acclaim, great affinity from fans and is performing very well in the digital space, publishing and first forays in Apparel and Back-to-School. 

We’re also excited to be introducing We Bare Bears at the show next week.  It’s another fun and modern original series, this time about three bears living together in the San Francisco Bay area and doing their best to assimilate human life.

So, with that backdrop, you can imagine it’s full of mayhem. Part of what makes the bears very appealing, we think, is the way they travel about stacked one on top of the other, in a formation the social world is now referring to as #Bearstack!

How does humour allow you to stretch the boundaries of licensing?

It definitely inspires some great work, such as the Adventure Time Bounce Mob marketing stunt that helped to launch the Dr Martens range.  Hundreds of Adventure Time fans bouncing down London’s Carnaby Street on Jake space hoppers wearing Finn onesies and Adventure Time Dr Martens boots was a sight to behold.

Next year, Adventure Time will also be brought to life in the world’s biggest indoor theme park – IMG World of Adventure in Dubai, which opens next year. And then there are more traditional surprises such as Adventure Time becoming the fastest-selling fashion brand at Russian retailer TVOE earlier this year.

In fact, the product had sold out before the marketing campaign even had a chance to start.  The creative minds and resources at Cartoon Network are on hand to support partners and this means we can pull off some fantastic initiatives.

What kind of help can partners get?

All of our partners can benefit from retail-centric local teams, on and off-air marketing support, innovative and award-winning marketing campaigns and the Cartoon Network magic.

We also have a central EMEA team responsible for the overall management of our core franchises in the region. They are the brand guardians and are there to ensure that everything is seamless, on brand and makes use of our ability to amplify the brands across multi-platforms. Our aim is to create a virtuous circle that is all good news for partners.  

Finally, what’s your favourite CN show?

We all love Gumball in my home – my daughter likes the fact that Anais is smarter than her brother! My favourite has got to be PPG and my son is one of the original fans of Ben 10. And, similar to many households, We Bare Bears has recently become the new family favourite.