Brand Pals: Start Licensing talks the cracking potential of Wallace & Gromit

The classic British animation series from Aardman is a staple in family homes across the UK and beyond. Here, Ian Downes from Start Licensing talks the licensing plans for Wallace & Gromit.
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What are the key partnerships for Wallace and Gromit moving into 2018? What categories are performing the strongest for the property and what new areas are you looking to take it into?

Ian Downes: Wallace and Gromit continues to perform well across cards, calendars, gift and homewares. We see further potential across higher end gifting, seasonal products, fine art and food categories. As a family favourite, the brand has a history of strong performance in marketing promotions and experiential activity and we are always looking for new opportunities in these areas.

A good example of targeted licensing is a longstanding partnership with Wensleydale Cheese – the films offer a lot of good opportunities for creative licensing and promotions linking directly to content. There is also a great feature partnership with Blackpool Pleasure Beach – they have a dedicated Wallace & Gromit ride the Thrill-o-matic – this is supported by a dedicated retail unit that features a mix of licensed products and ride specific merchandise. There are also Wallace & Gromit photo opportunities in the park.

What is current demand for Wallace & Gromit? Who are the core audiences for the property?

The core audience is the family. The brand continues to have strong awareness through VOD, DVD and linear broadcast. Licensed product sales can come from all areas. Most recent product launches include solar pals, advent calendars and adult colouring books. Wallace & Gromit are contemporary classics. The films become an annual broadcasting event with lots of opportunities to watch over the Christmas period and they have become a traditional bit of viewing for lots of families. The property has also worked well for events such as Father's Day – Danilo's Father's Day cards perform well and the characters also perform well in Danilo's Christmas card range, particularly when ranged in the humour card section. Humour is a big part of the appeal of Wallace & Gromit.

Wallace & Gromit are contemporary classics.

Ian Downes, MD, Start Licensing

Experiential seems to be a key aspect to the Wallace & Gromit licensing roster, are you looking to grow this over the coming years, what plans do you have in this space?

Downes: Wallace and Gromit lend themselves well to this environment and we continue to invest resources into this area. The Blackpool Pleasure Beach ride and shop remains popular, as does our touring Wallace and Gromit and friends exhibition, which currently resides in Melbourne. We had a successful art exhibition at the Illustration Cupboard in Mayfair last year and our touring model making workshops and Animate-It Live events continue to draw good audiences.

Aardman as a whole is a strong player in live and experiential events – with access to other characters like Shaun the Sheep and Morph, it is possible to put together a strong portfolio offer particularly when overlaid with Aardman's expertise and reputation in animation.

Compared to TV viewing/kids’ programmes today, Wallace & Gromit has a smaller catalogue of watchable content – how does this affect the licensing strategy, does it help or hinder, is W&G seen as more premium because of it?

Downes: The high production values make them a premium proposition. Each piece of content has been made for event television and it’s timeless humour and attention to detail means it remains in hearts and minds for longer. We want our licensed proposition to reflect this – broad appeal, lots of character and leaving the consumer with a smile on their face. In many ways the films are now event viewing and as noted before part of family tradition. The quality of the animation shines through as does the storytelling and characters – the films lend themselves to frequent viewing.

What are the next big partnerships for Wallace and Gromit and how will you continue to maintain the property’s strength in the entertainment space today? 

Downes: As a classic property much is down to strong recognition and good design. The release of the new Nick Park movie- Early Man in January 2018 is bound to bring attention on the brand and remind people why they love Aardman, and Wallace and Gromit. We are also looking forward to the 30th anniversary in 2019 and will be releasing a new style guide that will capture the classic moments and focus on the property’s heritage. We hope to develop more activity in areas like food gifting, personalised products and promotions – all categories that Wallace & Gromit should perform well in.

Anything you’d like to add?

Downes: Apart from asking for cheese on my cracker and milk in my tea please! It is important to highlight that Aardman is a creative company who is managing its own characters. This allows the firm to work closely with partners to develop bespoke design solutions and to match design to products. Aardman is keen to engage with licensees in a spirit of partnership and to share ideas – there is a wealth of knowledge and insight for partners to tap into. Aardman is also very proactive in areas like social media in supporting its IP, and also identifying new ways for consumers to access content.

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