THE BIG INTERVIEW: Tom Roe, Commercial Director, DHX Brands

Samantha Loveday

By Samantha Loveday

May 20th 2015 at 10:11AM
THE BIG INTERVIEW: Tom Roe, Commercial Director, DHX Brands

We catch up on the licensing plans for In The Night Garden and how DHX is looking to grow it further internationally.

Firstly, can you tell me the history behind the brand?

In the Night Garden is a magical creation that has revolutionised bedtime viewing for pre-schoolers since its launch in March 2007. It also features ground-breaking production processed with all episodes of the show painstakingly produced in one go over a block six month period, with the live-action sequences filmed in real woodland in Warwickshire.

The series takes children on an imaginative journey to meet a host of wonderfully silly and whimsical characters with unusual names like Igglepiggle, Makka Pakka, Upsy Daisy and The Tombliboos, who live together within a happy and caring community.

The IP was bought by DHX Media as part of the acquisition of Ragdoll Worldwide in 2013, and has since then been under the stewardship of DHX Brands and CPLG, a DHX Media-owned global licensing agency in key territories.

How did the brand perform over the past 12 months?

The brand is going from strength to strength as we have seen a real appetite for products and experiences from our loyal fans. We are witnessing a phenomenal resurgence of the property, which has truly become an integral part of our young audiences’ bedtime routines.

The licensing programme for In the Night Garden has been thriving over the past months, and DHX Brands has invested heavily in new ways to bring the world of In the Night Garden for every fan. To engage with its loyal fan base, DHX Brands has created fresh consumer touch points such as a brand new immersive website, a pioneering web app, and new social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest in addition to the existing Facebook page.

Viewers can enjoy content and engage with the brand digitally across all mobile devices but can also experience the brand in person thanks to the unique nationwide live show, which has attracted well over half a million spectators, and thanks to the very popular In the Night Garden boat ride at CBeebies Land.

How many licensees does it have to date (in the UK and worldwide) and in which categories?

We are proud to have 32 best in class licensees on board in the UK. Lots of new market-leading partners have come on board in the last year, which are currently developing products and presenting to retailers. There has been some great traction at retail and we are busy putting in place cross category activations for the end of the year and 2016.

What are some of the best performing products?

In the Night Garden has been named the top fifth pre-school toy licence in 2014, and we have a number of hugely popular products at retail right now. In the Night Garden Talking Soft Toys assortment and Ninky Nonk Activity Train were the top second and third pre-school licensed items in 2014 in value, and the award winning Ninky Nonk Musical Activity train sold in excess of 65k units in six months. The In the Night Garden talking soft toys assortment were also the top selling plush items across the whole toy industry in 2014.

Over 9.5 million books have been sold in the UK, and the official magazine is the only pre-school magazine aimed at under 3’s featuring gifts tested from 18 months+ with sales growing exponentially. The magazine has been refreshed this month with a whole new look and new content which will appeal to the young fans of the series.

In the Night Garden is also a key anchor brand in CBeebies Land, Alton Towers. It’s been the number one ride since launch and the merchandise is consistently top-performing in stores.

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – for example into new categories or territories?

Absolutely, we are actively growing the programme in Australia and consolidating a huge offering in China. We’ve already produced a core guide and three seasonal style-guides in the last six months and look to develop seasonal and trend guides every year to ensure the brand remains fresh and relevant.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2015?

In order to keep the brand top of mind amongst parents of toddlers and generate excitement, we have planned a number of exciting brand building initiatives throughout 2015.

May is In the Night Garden’s party month across all branded channels. This month fans can download party themed content from our online platforms and create their very own themed event. The celebrations will culminate in a party at CBeebies Land to celebrate the first anniversary of the In the Night Garden boat ride. To coincide with this, Igglepiggle will unfurl the world’s largest polar fleece blanket at Alton Towers. We’re hoping to break the Guinness World Record.

Further engaging and immersive marketing initiatives are also planned for the summer and autumn, which will give young fans the opportunity to experience the brand in new innovative ways.

What has the retail reaction been like to the brand?

In a word, fantastic. Most retailers are doubling shelf space for In the Night Garden this year, and we’re working with them to implement cross category activations and retail exclusives. In the Night Garden has also been the fastest growing preschool toy license in 2014 and we want to ensure continued momentum.

What are some of the main challenges you've come up against? And how have you overcome them?

DHX Media signed a deal with CBeebies which will see the series airing until at least 2021, and the brand is well on the way to becoming evergreen. It’s won the trust of parents, and has been voted fourth best children’s programme of all time in a survey conducted by Radio Times - so we’ve managed to cultivate a dedicated fan base.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand in 2015?

We’re hoping to expand the licensing programme even further, while maintaining the highest standard of quality and consumer-oriented focus which has defined the brand thus far. DHX Brands is working towards carefully and selectively growing the reach of In the Night Garden internationally.