It's been quite the year for Acamar Films, the London-based independent studio and owner of the hit pre-school IP, Bing.
It wasn't too long ago that the company welcomed the former 20th Century Fox licensing executive, Sandra Vauthier-Cellier to its ranks and from then, the firm has only continued to grow.
Most recently, Bing, the most requested pre-school show on CBeebies and BBC's iPlayer has secured a new master toy partner in Golden Bear. And that's just the start. We talk to Vauthier-Cellier about Bing's next big thing for BLE...
What is the strength of Bing, what about it resonates so well with its audience?
The stories told in Bing are timeless and children around the world can relate to the shared experiences of Bing and his friends as they encounter the highs and lows of everyday preschool life on screen.
When Acamar Films optioned the TV and film rights to Bing 14 years ago, Bing’s world was carefully designed so that it could be ‘Round any corner not far away…’ which could be localised anywhere around the world. The activities and situations in the show are told from a pre-schoolers’ perspective – a unique viewpoint for a children’s property - regardless of background and culture which makes Bing relatable to so many children.
Children and their grown-ups connect with the show on an emotional level – children recognise something of themselves in Bing and parents can see aspects of their own toddler within Bing regardless of where they live.
Could you talk us through the latest developments with the Acamar team?
We have welcomed several new members to Acamar this year. The commercial team has expanded with the recent appointments of Natalie Harvey as Head of Global Licensing, Lauren Rooney as Marketing Executive and Janna Kirkby as Licensing Coordinator.
We recently built a YouTube studio in our new London office which means we are able to deliver new engaging content to entertain our growing audience. Joe Rosen was recently appointed as Content Producer and is helping to bring new content to life, whilst always remaining authentic and true to Bing. Our team is very passionate about Bing – we live and breathe Bing 24/7.
How has business been over the last 12 months?
It’s been an incredibly exciting time for the business. In the past 14 months we have really been expanding Bing’s global presence with increased broadcast exposure and on the ground expertise from a network of international licensing agents.
Bing is now broadcast in 100 countries with newly signed broadcasters in the Nordics, Czech Republic, Middle East, Russia, South Korea, South East Asia, and soon in the US and LatAm. We’re increasing the global reach of consumer products with licensing agents in Poland, Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Italy, South Africa and Australia.
This year we are immensely proud to be exhibiting at Brand Licensing Europe - and MIPCOM - for the first time under the Acamar Films banner, where we’ll be sharing plans for Bing’s new master toy range from Golden Bear, as well as our pipeline of new content, marketing themes, consumer facing initiatives, experiential activities and new style guides for 2019/20.
Our BLE debut is the ideal platform to update the industry on our raft of successes to date, whilst looking ahead at the continued growth and future development of Bing. In addition, we’ll be making a number of major announcements in the coming months as we roll out in North America, LatAm and Asia which will introduce Bing to new audiences around the world.
What changes and states of development has the team gone through in the last year in terms of approach to licensing?
Since I joined Acamar last year, there have been considerable changes across the business. The acceleration of the Bing licensing programme has been underpinned by the expansion of the team here at Acamar - recentralising the in-house media sales and licensing and merchandising division, on-going digital and content development, continued investment in multiple consumer touch-points and experiential activities to drive brand engagement.
This expansion is in response to the accelerated success of Bing and is part of a wider global growth strategy to ensure Bing is available to its audience - pre-schoolers and their parents – at the right time, on the right platform.
For example, the launch of our global YouTube channel was a crucial development to deliver engaging and entertaining Bing content to as many countries as possible, alongside terrestrial TV launches. We now have Bing local language YouTube channels in UK, Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and soon in Benelux and Russia.
Over the next three months we’ll also be launching in Russia and the Netherlands. Our ambition is to become a global digital broadcaster in our own right.
We have made Bing social media channels a destination for parents to share their experiences of raising a pre-schooler. Bing has a highly engaged and fast growing social media community (e.g. on Facebook there’s over 130k fans and reaches an average 1.2M users per month), and a growing presence on Twitter and Instagram. Social media is an ideal way to speak directly with parents, keep them engaged in Bing and share key licensing and merchandising messages including new product launches and retail offers.
What new partners have you brought on board for Bing? What new categories are you now looking at?
We’re very excited to announce a new master toy partner for Bing. Golden Bear has just been appointed as master toy partner for Bing in the UK, EMEA and Australia.
We’ve been impressed by their enthusiasm and vision for the toy line which will launch in A/W 2019. Their experience in the preschool sector is unparalleled and they will be introducing an extensive new line of toys that includes multiple plush items that span basic, talking, feature, night-time and jumbo; figurines and playsets, role play items, bath toys and wooden puzzles.
The UK licensing programme continues to grow, with consumer products from top-tier partners including HarperCollins, Studio Canal, Alligator Books, Egmont, Immediate Media, Redan, Jolly Roger, Ravensburger, Amscan, Paper Products, BBF, Spearmark, Kokomo, Dreamtex, Aykroyds, TDP, TVM Fashion Lab and Roy Lowe.
Two new categories are dress up and footwear, with products from Smiffys and William Lamb launching at retail in 2019.
We are in the process of appointing agents to spearhead growth in key international markets. We recently appointed Maurizio Distefano the evolution of Licensing (MDL) to oversee the development of Bing in Italy. MDL has a history of securing licensing agreements for entertainment properties including Masha and the Bear and we’re harnessing his expertise to put down roots in the market. The first line of Bing merchandise is set to launch in Italy in early 2019.
Earlier this year, we appointed License Connection to represent Bing in the Benelux region who is already working on a number of licensing deals to satisfy the demand in market. We are also in discussions with Merchantwise to launch our consumer products programme in Australia.
Digital and experiential are increasingly important for consumers, what are you bringing to these areas?
We know from the success of our social media channels that we have a highly engaged grown-up digital community who are keen to share and learn from each other.
We encourage our grown up audience to share their experiences and insights of looking after a Bingster as well as new posts and announcements, product releases, memes around parenting and activities/creativity relating back to Bing.
Our product release posts are always a conversation starter - which is another reason why our reach and engagement for product release posts are so high.
The rapid growth of YouTube is at the heart of our content creation plans. This year we built our own YouTube studio in our London office, with our own highly experienced in-house content producers and editors.
Bing is available on YouTube globally and we now have local language YouTube channels in the UK, Poland, Italy, Spain, France and Germany, and are shortly launching this platform in the Benelux and Russia too. Our YouTube channel is a key digital offering to our Bingsters, and similarly we are planning to create engaging content for grown-ups which will be based around the experiences that come hand in hand with having a pre-schooler in their lives, to evoke conversation and encourages a sense of community.
Parents with children under 5 are always looking for ways to connect and engage with Bing, which makes the experiential category a key and very exciting area for this age group.
Young children want to continue to interact with Bing, so the creation of wonderful events that bring Bing to life was a natural progression. This year we launched our first UK stage show, Bing Live! which sees Bing and his friends discovering the magic of theatre for the first time, brought to life by internationally acclaimed puppet designer Tahra Zafar.
Earlier this year an exclusive partnership with Vue brought Bing to the big screen across 84 UK cinemas. Following its sell out success we are now rolling out Bing at the Cinema internationally with Poland, The Netherlands and Italy as the lead markets.
Elsewhere, parents and their little ones can enjoy Bing’s Picnic show at CBeebies Land Alton Towers which was new for 2018. Another exciting partnership was Super Camps who ran Bing themed activities this summer for over 12,000 Under 5s across 83 schools.
In addition, from mid-September 2018 Bing and Flop made their debut at Butlin’s resorts. The experiential programme has seen huge successes so far which has a ripple effect on the rest of the licensing program, providing the right exposure to a captive audience who truly love Bing and can’t wait to get their hands on Bing merchandise.
What new developments have you got lined up for Bing in the animated content stakes?
We’ll be giving visitors to BLE a first look at our pipeline of new content for 2019 and 2020. The new series is currently in production (26 x 7’) which will begin airing from Q3 2019.
The new episodes will tie into new marketing themes, consumer facing initiatives and new style guides. This new material will give our partners a wealth of fresh assets to inspire product development and we can’t wait to see what they create.
The new series is a key component to building the property internationally and demonstrates our commitment to the longevity of the brand.