How was this year’s Licensing Expo for Cartoon Network?
We had our summit on the Monday and although it’s managed by our North American team, we make it global and invite licensees and retailers from all around the world. We showcased our priorities, which are The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10 and Adventure Time, and we also touched on some exciting new properties for us like Mighty Magiswords, which is a really interesting one.
Starting with Adventure Time, it’s such a unique property. How has the licensing programme developed as the brand has grown?
We had a very clear strategy in Europe for Adventure Time. Two years ago, we focused our attention on the young adult demographic that the show really appealed to. They weren’t necessarily watching the show on Cartoon Network, but they were watching it on YouTube or reading the comics by KaBOOM! that Titan did such a great with in bringing to the UK.
There was a really dedicated fanbase out there and it was the brainchild of licensing director Graham Saltmarsh to focus on nurturing that and giving the fans what they want. We partnered with Forbidden Planet, Pulp and then HMV to launch the licensed range around that young adult demographic.
We then started looking at collaborations. We’re now going into our fourth collection with Doc Martens and Adventure Time has been its most successful licence. Asda has done really well with the brand in its kids’ space and our Next Adventure Time t-shirts are one of its best performing items. It’s been a joy to work on because we had a strategy, stuck to the strategy and it worked.
The imagery is so rich and the diversity of the characters is a designer’s dream, so we started talking to Desigual, the fashion brand, and it ran a range for girls and that’s in its second season now. They are beautiful products and we did a big launch at Desigual’s flagship Regent Street store. Angelina Jolie even came in with her kids.
Adventure Time has got niche appeal but it’s also now got mass appeal. There’s Adventure Time LEGO on the way and the brand is coming to LEGO Dimensions. We also did a McDonalds Happy Meal promotion and in the UK alone we had 44 million premiums. So we’re happy that we’ve taken it from niche to mass but we’re maintaining that by collaborating with great brands that respect and understand Adventure Time.
How has the licensing world responded to the return of The Powerpuff Girls?
This is the second time around for The Powerpuff Girls. The show first aired in 1998 and there is still a lot of brand equity in the markets for The Powerpuff Girls. The girls that loved it the first time around are in their twenties so to tease in the new show we teamed with firms like Moschino and went into the adult fashion category. Moschino was on the catwalk in September and in stores in Q1 this year.
Just before coming to Vegas, I went to Poland and we had a big fashion show featuring a capsule collection from Bizuu, a famous local fashion brand. It did a young adult collection and it was amazing.
The show launched globally in April but the toys don’t launch in Europe until spring/summer 2017. Spin Master is on board as the master toy partner and it has some great items in the line.
How different are the licensing plans for The Powerpuff Girls this time around compared to what happened during the brand’s first run in the late Nineties?
It’s very different. The first time around, there wasn’t a co-ordinated consumer products effort globally around the brand. This time it’s a globally co-ordinated effort and back then we didn’t have a global master toy for the brand whereas this time we do.
We didn’t have a globally marketing plan around it last time, so we’re treating it in a very different way this time around. It will enable us to go beyond what we did in the various regions.
Onto Ben 10 and the revamped new series is landing on screens later this year. Will the new look for Ben 10 open up different possibilities for the brand this time around?
The main difference from last time is the role digital plays.
What we’ve done straight out of the gate with the new Ben 10 is produce content for YouTube, content for our Cartoon Network Anything app and a series of shorts to be used in digital formats, all parallel to the show content. We’ll have a breadth of animated content that’s unrivalled.
We’ve tested our first lot of episodes in the UK, Italy, Spain, Poland and South Africa and we’re over the moon with the results. Boys loved it. It’s very different but it has all the great stuff that the first run had.
Ben grew up in the later series and we recognised that that wasn’t a smart thing to do. So in this new series, Ben is 10 years and it’s all about his interactions with his family and his ability to turn into a defined set of aliens. They are 11-minute episodes and we’ve committed to at least three seasons.