THE BIG INTERVIEW: Julian Day, VP UK Consumer Products, Ludorum

We find out what's next for the firm and its flagship brand, Chuggington.
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2010 turned out to be the break out year for Ludorum’s pre-school property, Chuggington. It made the successful transition from show to shelf – “having a popular show does not necessarily mean that consumers will want to purchase product,” chips in Julian Day, brand owner Ludorum’s VP UK consumer products – but at the same time managed to catch the attention of some high profile international broadcast partners too.

“2010 was pretty much our launch year (product wise), as it saw our master toy partner Learning Curve introduce their product to the market, so we’re constantly breaking new ground,” Day continues. “From a standing start I don’t think we could have hoped for a better start than we’ve enjoyed. Learning Curve has already sold in excess of two million individual units and Parragon, our publishing partner, has just passed the one million book mark.”

In programming terms, a further 52 episodes - including 26 of the new four-minute Chuggington Badge Quest format in addition to 26 ten-minute shows – were delivered. Demand for new content from the network of worldwide broadcast partners has also meant that Ludorum has committed to the production of another 52 episodes for delivery throughout 2012, as well as looking towards production for 2013/14 and 2015.

“When you look at how impressive the team that puts the show together is, it is difficult to imagine it being anything other than a success,” says Day. “Having said that, nothing is a given so I guess you could say we lucked out with the most extraordinarily committed and creatively talented team.”

With the first wave of the toy programme settled in at retail, the next step of the Chuggington merchandising plan will see product launching throughout 2011 from licensees including VTech, Mega Bloks, Tomy and Winning Moves among others.

Trying to tempt Day into talking about what else Ludorum might have up its sleeve is difficult – “no secret worth keeping lasts for long,” he says enigmatically. However, he’s not ruling out potential third party acquisitions to bolster the firm’s portfolio, but “the opportunity would have to fit into Ludorum’s mindset of ‘if we can sell a show in one territory, we should be able to sell it into 160+ territories’ and maintain majority control.

“Not being a household name multiple entertainment franchise house means that when we compete for attention on a global stage, we compete with some heavy hitters. It would be easy to be intimidated by such a challenge, so when we do so we have to ensure that what we have to offer not only stands up to scrutiny but can stand out.”

Despite the company’s size, Day sees its growth coming from the same avenues as larger firms will also need to walk down. “Everyone seems to have gone app mad,” he muses. “Licensed and branded apps arguably stand a better chance over the lottery of the generic. The battle to emerge will be in balancing free to download as marketing initiatives versus offering great play value in the pay to download space.”

Meanwhile, product-wise, Day sees greater integrated use of interactive titles alongside licensed console accessories, for example the likes of Nintendo’s Wii Fit and THQ’s U-Draw tablet.

But while 2010 was certainly Chuggington’s year, where does Day see Ludorum in five year’s time? “The same team, with some additional hires. Chuggington as a comprehensive evergreen. A second property performing well and a third in the pipeline.”

Cue the inevitable ‘Ludorum steams ahead’ headlines for a while longer then.


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