It seems the team at Aardman doesn’t believe in taking things easy. Over the past 12 months, not only has it been working very hard to establish Shaun the Sheep around the world, it has also started pre-production of pre-school spin off Timmy, is planning a Wallace & Gromit TV special and has signed up with Cartoon Network and Jamie Oliver for Chop Socky Chooks and Little J respectively.
It seems like an exhausting schedule, but head of marketing and licensing, Sean Clarke and his team are attacking the challenge with gusto.
For example, Wallace & Gromit has been given a make-over, with a new style guide making the brand more fresh and relevant to consumers today. This is also being used to engage new licensees, such as Rainbow Designs, which is the master gift licensee. Promotional and strategic partnerships have also been key for Clarke, such as the one recently signed with Leonard Cheshire Disability for Creature Discomforts.
“Over the last 12 months we have worked with Comic Relief, the Patent Office (on a nationwide competition to bring innovation into lessons for Key Stage Two as part of the National Curriculum) and the W&G Children’s Foundation, which is a charity that raises funds to support children’s hospices/hospitals around the UK,” Clarke says. “We will also be announcing soon an array of new partners with a bread theme aligned to the TV special Trouble At’ Mill where Wallace and Gromit start a bread making business.”
There’s no doubt that W&G is still a hot property – as too is spin-off Shaun the Sheep. The show averages a 35 per cent share of the four to 14 year-olds market on BBC in the UK, while early indicators from master toy licensee Golden Bear are positive in terms of merchandise sales. There are now around 25 licensees in the UK with broad retail support on the High Street heading into 2008.
“Due to the fact that Shaun the Sheep is a silent comedy, it has travelled around the world very quickly and we have about ten agents in all key territories,” Clarke offers. “We are now looking to build our presence in home furnishings and other gift-related product.”
And, just as Shaun was born out of W&G, Shaun has in turn spawned Timmy, a new pre-school property announced in October. Clarke is keen to lock in master toy and publishing licensees by the end of the year, before starting to look at other areas early in 2008.
Master toy and publishing partners are also expected to be confirmed for Chop Socky Chooks by the end of the year. This is due to launch next spring in the US and autumn in the UK.
“It is a great new direction for Aardman being created in CGI and targeting primarily boys,” Clarke enthuses. “We are very excited to be working with Cartoon Network, who are looking to get behind this in the same impactful way that they did for Ben 10.”
Aardman certainly has a full portfolio, but Clarke is still thinking of expansion: “We are actually looking at various girls properties, both in terms of developing our own IP as well as representing third party,” he says. “In five years time, we want to continue to be known for creative excellence, but across all sectors including pre-school, children’s and family.”