Sandra Vauthier-Cellier on The Simpsons and the growth of the Fox Consumer Products' licensing programme

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

October 12th 2015 at 9:42AM
UPDATED October 12th 2015 at 8:39PM
Sandra Vauthier-Cellier on The Simpsons and the growth of the Fox Consumer Products' licensing programme

As Fox Consumer Products heads to BLE this week, Sandra Vauthier-Cellier, SVP EMEA talks us through the firm's plans for just some of its biggest brands.

Tell us about your career path prior to joining Fox

I joined Fox Consumer Products in February of this year. Before then, I’ve held roles as Category Manager Europe for Coca-Cola and then Senior Retail & Marketing Manager for The Mary-Kate and Ashley brand at The Beanstalk Group, Managing Director of 4Kids Entertainment for six years from 2006-2012 (Yu Gi Oh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pokemon) before moving to Studio 100 as Chief Brand Officer (Maya the Bee, Vicki The Viking, Heidi). I’ve also consulted for Zodiak Media working across Global Consumer Products.

What is your role within the business and what are you hoping to achieve in the next 18 months?

I oversee Fox Consumer Products’ London office, which manages our licensing programmes across the EMEA region along with our network of international agents.  This encompasses sales, retail and promotions, marketing and communications, as well as brand strategy, creative and product development.

Over the next 18 months, I’m committed to growing Fox’s licensing programmes in EMEA territories and seeking new retail channels for our brands. The diversity of our licensed properties has always underpinned the success of our consumer products programs and it is our ambition to open up our vast portfolio of brands to new demographics and partners.

What are your priorities for BLE, are you looking for partners in particular territories?

At BLE this year, we’ll be presenting our world-class portfolio of leading entertainment brands, anchored by the upcoming release of Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth film in the $6.2 Billion Ice Age franchise that is scheduled to premiere in July 2016.

At BLE, we’ll be presenting EMEA licensing opportunities in a range of categories including gift and novelty, homewares, stationery, personal care and publishing. Partners will benefit from new storylines and both new and classic characters.

On our booth we’ll be showcasing ‘Springfield Elementary’ our new global theme for The Simpsons, which will inspire creative assets and marketing activity for 2016.  

In addition the focus will be on our franchise film brands that we build and support for the long term including Independence Day, Planet of the Apes, Alien and the all new Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip. We’ve also have some very exciting new additions including the hit US TV series, Empire and the hotly anticipated Scream Queens.

How big is the Simpsons franchise and who are the key partners?

The Simpsons is a huge international franchise with an outstanding level of brand awareness. With 26 years of TV programming throughout the EMEA region, the brand continues to grow and is more relevant than ever.

The Simpsons licensing programme now has over 180 partners on board in EMEA territories covering all major categories. As part of our long term strategy, we work with the best in class partners to deliver new product launches throughout the year that will engage fans and satisfy consumer demand. 

For example, this year we partnered with major global brands including LEGO and Minecraft and we unveiled the new immersive “Springfield” land at Universal Studio Hollywood. Elsewhere, fashion partnerships with leading European high-street retailers including Primark, Zara, the LPP group and H&M continue to grow The Simpsons presence in the contemporary fashion space for kids, teens, tweens and young adults.

What’s your strategy for making The Simpsons a lifestyle brand?

There is a tremendous consumer appetite for The Simpsons and we have seen the brand transform from an entertainment to an evergreen lifestyle brand.  We’re fortunate that The Simpsons is so rich in content and iconic people and places that we can target each core demographic with distinct creative.  

We are also opening up a new demographic by taking the brand into the baby and nursery sector for 2016.

In addition, we are boosting The Simpsons presence in key lifestyle categories such as apparel while ensuring that the fashion partnerships are on-trend, which creates opportunities for us to reach new audiences. More recently we’ve done this through collaborations with street-style apparel partners such as HYPE, Joyrich and Neff - who have each produced fashion collections that offer a modern twist on iconic Simpsons artwork.

How do you keep a heritage property like The Simpsons fresh and appealing for younger and new audiences?

We’re in a fortunate position with The Simpsons because its breadth of content gives us the ability to segment creatives to target different audience sectors.

This year we’ve really boosted the brand’s presence in the female market through contemporary partnerships including a girlswear range with George at Asda, a range of day and nightwear for teen girls with Primark and a SS15 womenswear collection in global high street fashion retailer, Zara.

London fashion accessory brand Skinny Dip recently launched a collection focusing on fan favourite character, Krusty the Clown. The range features phone cases, backpacks and travel accessories and is available at Skinnydip’s Carnaby Street, London store in addition to concessions in leading fashion retail outlets Topshop and Selfridges.  

Collaborations such as these serve a dual purpose of not only allowing us to engage new audiences, but also opening up exciting new retail channels that themselves have currency in terms of making the brand ‘cool’ to a young adult consumer.

Digital is another way that we can tap into a younger audience. We’re committed to strengthening the digital and online footprint for the brand and giving fans access to The Simpsons content across a variety of media platforms.

The rise of digital, social media and mobile devices has meant audiences are now consuming content in a greater variety of ways. As such, our 360 approach has enabled us to be where our audience are and offer them a deeper connection The Simpsons brand.

We’ve launched highly successful mobile games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out, which has been downloaded over 300 million times. There is a phenomenal fan-base on social media – The Simpsons is the number one entertainment brand on Facebook with over 69 million fans. To further engage fans in the digital space, in February 2015 The Simpsons made their debut in the hugely successful video game, Minecraft. To date, Springfield Elementary is Microsoft’s most successful character downloadable content pack with the biggest spike of users coming from the UK.

How are you managing the long term growth of The Simpsons and keeping partners inspired?

The rich world of Springfield – complete with its array of fan favourite characters and iconic locations – allows us to continue growing The Simpsons brand in so many new and exciting ways.

To manage this growth in the long-term, we’re taking a careful and considered approach to appointing partners, ensuring each with add depth to the current consumer products programme and boost the brand’s retail presence.

We continue to offer fresh style guides that bring something new whilst maintaining the brand’s core DNA.  This gives partners the flexibility to develop interesting product lines for a multitude of demographics and retail channels.

We plan to extend our seasonal ranges for the brand as The Simpsons provides an excellent opportunities all year round for key retail events such as Fathers’ Day, Halloween and Christmas.

Is there a Simpsons consumer and who are they?

It’s important we recognise the cross-generational appeal of the brand and offer each demographic the opportunity to engage with the brand beyond the show’s broadcast. This approach means the brand appeals to consumers of all ages and demographics. From adults who grew up with the show to kids now experiencing The Simpsons for the first time.

While the brand has previously been skewed towards the male consumer, we’re taken great strides in engaging the female audience further. We’re continuing to form strategic partnerships to build our business within this market. For example, we launched a girlswear range for George at Asda, targeted teens and young girls with a night-and daywear collection in Primark and teamed up with leading high-street retailer Zara for womenswear.

What new properties do you have coming through that we should be aware of?

There’s huge excitement surrounding our new TV property, Empire.  Having taken US TV audiences by storm in its record-setting first season, Empire is the number one series on US broadcast television. The show shattered ratings records every week in its debut season and its coming to Europe.

Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the drama centres on Lucious Lyon, a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public.

The show features luxurious fashion brands and each Empire character has their own unique style. This provides great scope for interesting and contemporary brand connections.

In the US to celebrate the season two premiere, FCP teamed with Saks Fifth Avenue to create Empire curated clothing, shoe and accessory collections. The recently launched ranges feature jewellery from Alexis Bittar, women’s wear from Cushnie et Ochs, footwear from Jimmy Choo and accessories from MCM. As the show’s fan-base builds across Europe, we’re now looking for further fashion partnerships to engage Empire’s style conscious audience.

Another exciting property coming through is Scream Queens. Created by Ryan Murphy, the award winning creator of Glee and American Horror Story, the new black comedy/slasher horror TV series features an all-star cast (Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele). Scream Queens premiered Fox in the US last month and has already attracted a core teen girl following. Scream Queens will roll out across Europe, starting with E4 in the UK to debut this October.  

How are you planning to launch these across the EMEA region and what categories will you license first?

In line with the shows’ themes and core demographic, both Empire and Screen Queens’s licensing programmes will be driven by the fashion category. We’ll also be seeking EMEA partners across accessories, homewares, gifting and personal care.