The combination of colourful characters that make odd noises set amongst a magical background has proved a winning formula yet again for Ragdoll.
Ten years after taking the pre-school scene by storm with the Teletubbies, creators Andrew Davenport and Anne Wood have brought In The Night Garden to life; introducing youngsters and their parents alike to the delightful Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, Mukka Pukka and friends.
Screened on Cbeebies in the early evening slot, In The Night Garden has experienced a resounding level of success since its inception, both on screen and at retail level.
In one of her last interviews before departing as Director of Children’s at BBC Worldwide, Gill Pritchard captures the essence of the brand…
How did In The Night Garden come about and what is the role of BBC Worldwide Children’s in relation to it?
Following the huge success of Teletubbies, which continues to capture the imaginations of young children since its launch ten years ago, In the Night Garden was Ragdoll’s response to the anxious times we seem to live in today by producing a warm enfolding programme that was funny and reassuring.
The programme is about a magical place that exists between waking and sleeping in a child’s imagination. It is a place that is inhabited by a group of toy characters that care for each other and have fun together, which is both entertaining and educational. The programme launched to great success on Cbeebies in spring 2007 and has fast become one of the most popular pre-school programmes on television.
BBC Worldwide is the global rights distributor for In the Night Garden. We oversee the commercial opportunities for the programme here in the UK in terms of toys, DVDs, magazines, music and audiobooks and publishing through our joint venture with Penguin. Internationally we also look after the TV sales of the programme.
What qualities make ITNG stand out as a brand?
In the Night Garden is unique in the way in which it delights and entertains young children. It’s something that the creative geniuses at Ragdoll continually manage to achieve and why we’re so proud of our joint venture with them.
In the Night Garden characters are very appealing; the fact that they are toys means they are universally recognised by children. The catchy/charming music and songs are also a key quality to which parents and children respond.
In terms of a brand that stands-out for licensing - and it’s important to note that a broadcast success is not always a licensing success - In the Night Garden has those key components and a unique visual identity, supported by high profile partners with a track record of success. The cross-generational appeal of the show, I also think is incredibly important to ensure parents buy-in to the brand – and they ultimately make the purchasing decisions.
What has BBC Worldwide done to market the brand?
We launched the first product in late summer 2007. We have worked with partners including Hasbro our master toy licensee, Penguin and with Ragdoll to engage with parents and children on a multitude of levels. We’ve developed a very successful website (www.inthenightgarden.co.uk) which gives parents and children the chance to interact with the characters, we’ve developed retail and media promotions to leverage awareness of the brand to new audiences including events in-store such as Hamleys and Mothercare. We also have comprehensive PR campaigns – talking to the industry and to consumers - in place for all key launches through the year including toys and DVDs.
What sectors is it present in at a retail level and what have been some of the most successful initiatives?
In the Night Garden has presence across various sectors – from toys and clothing, to homewares, gift and stationary, accessories and food in the form of celebration cakes. We also have audiobooks, DVD and publishing. The brand performs really well across all sectors - specifically toys, clothing, books and DVD lead the way.
We’ve done a range of initiatives at retail including the Hamleys toy launch last year, which included the main window display and a storytelling event starring Justin Fletcher from CBeebies. We will be replicating in a similar way this year with Hasbro’s Upsy Daisy in Her Bed. We’ve had the Gold Event Cross Category Promotion in Woolworths this Summer which has been very successful and we’ve done a lot of work previously in-store with the likes of Asda and Mothercare.
ITNG has been a phenomenal success quite quickly and in the highly competitive pre-school market. Did BBC Worldwide foresee this? What kind of position does this put the brand in going forward?
The success of In the Night Garden has been extraordinary. At the beginning of this year it became the fastest growing license in the toy and game market – beating High School Musical. We’ve since seen it become the second biggest licence in the market. Across the board we’ve had success, from licensing with the plush continually securing the top slots and Blanket Time Igglepiggle winning Toy of the Year not only here in the UK but also in Australia before the programme even launched!
Publishing has also gone from strength to strength – our joint venture partner Penguin has sold 1.3 million In the Night Garden books to date. We’ve also had success across our magazine, our audiobooks and albums.
Internationally the programme is selling well with 22 countries currently on board. including Canada and Australia. In Australia where it broadcasts on ABC, Hasbro’s range got off to a great start with the Toy of the Year. In Canada – following fantastic ratings on Treehouse - the merchandise has achieved great sell-through. Major new announcements about new International sales are imminent so watch this space…
Do you think ITNG will become a longstanding brand, such as Teletubbies? Why?
We can never be sure of a ‘hit’ like Teletubbies. However, working with Ragdoll and knowing their innovative capacity to develop inspirational TV programmes for children, and knowing the huge investment that has gone in to the programme - we were confident from the outset that In the Night Garden would become a landmark series.
To maintain and grow the success that we’ve enjoyed to date with In the Night Garden, we will be looking at ways to constantly keep the brand fresh and relevant. In the years to come children will continue to change their play habits as new technologies come on board so we have to constantly adapt. In the Night Garden is unique because of the sheer depth of the programming and the characters so we have incredible scope when it comes to extending our ranges for 2010 and beyond.