Ferne McCann is back on TV screens in hit reality show The Only Way is Essex, at its new home on ITV Be.
But when Licensing.biz catches up with the reality star, it’s not in Brentwood’s Sugar Hut but London’s Olympia, right in the midst of Brand Licensing Europe where Ferne has swapped her usual Essex companions for the slightly less dramatic world of giant costumed characters (it’s fair to say the Minions weren’t overly interested in the latest romantic entanglements of Bugs Bunny).
The TOWIE star is at the show because, alongside navigating her feud with Chloe Sims and a relationship with Charlie Sims, she is preparing to launch herself as a licensable brand.
McCann has only been in TOWIE for a year, but away from the show she has already starred in several successful campaigns, spanning everything from fronting the By Caprice lingerie range to posing in short shorts for Mecca Bingo.
She is also a columnist ofr Star Magazine and has a passionate social media following (a post on her Instagram averages around 10,000 likes).
And now, Ferne McCann is a brand. Rights Management International is on the hunt for partners and the TOWIE star believes it’s a natural next step for her.
“It’s come from being on a successful TV show,” McCann tells Licensing.biz.
“The Only Way Is Essex started in 2010 and 13 series in it's still as successful as ever. The last series was the highest rated series since series two, so it’s still as strong as ever. The ITV family has launched a new channel called ITV Be, a channel dedicated to reality TV, and TOWIE is the flagship show.
“Off the back of that and with my Twitter and Instagram following, it seems like a natural progression. I’ve been in successful branded campaigns so it seems like the next step.”
Having sported more different hairstyles than most have had hot dinners, it’s no surprise as to the sectors McCann is looking to target with her licensing partnerships.
“Health, beauty and fashion,” she tells Licensing.biz.
“It’s what any young girl is into, but before TOWIE I was a hair colourist. I worked for Sassoon for four years as a colour technician and I was doing styling as well. When you see me on the show or on my Instagram, every single hairstyle is completely different. The fans love it and they want to know how to achieve that look. So the hair, fashion, health and beauty sectors are what I want to launch products into.”
Having handled the licensing campaigns for fellow TOWIE stars Sam and Billie Faiers, Rights Management International is confident Ferne will enjoy similar success.
“Her audience is 16 to 30,” adds Saphia Maxamed, business development manager at Rights Management International.
“It’s something fresh and something new. In licensing, there’s always that gap and a lot of people are looking into that area. It’s something exciting to look forward to in 2015.”
“We launched brand Ferne at BLE and it’s been so successful so far. We’ve had a huge reaction and we’ve seen several licensees across health, beauty and fashion be very keen, as well as some from the world of accessories. There are a lot of licensees already excited about Ferne.”
And McCann has already seen her fan base begin to ask when they can get their hands on her own line of products.
“On Twitter, my fans are always like ‘when are you going to launch your own perfume? Are you going to have a shop?’ she adds. “There’s loads of interest.”
As her TOWIE co-star Sam Faiers has demonstrated, licensing is a ideal way for reality stars to extend their reach beyond the shows where they made their name.
Kim Kardashian has forged a successful career as a businesswoman away from Keeping Up With The Kardashians through fragrance and fashion lines, and McCann is hoping her debut in the licensing world will help extend her profile beyond TOWIE.
“Someone like Millie McIntosh has something a little bit different so I like what she’s up to,” says McCann.
“The Kardashians too. They have a similar style show to TOWIE and they’re everywhere. TOWIE is like the UK version.
“People buy into us as characters and personalities seen on TOWIE. I’m still a person aside from the show, so some people follow what I’m up to on Twitter and Instagram, even if they don’t watch the show. TOWIE is still really important, but when we’re not on air, it gives us time to work on other things.”
Rights Management International's Maxamed adds: “Fern McCann is its own brand but an important platform is TOWIE.
“Social media has changed the game altogether. We’ve proven this with Sam and Billie Faiers. Both came from TOWIE and Sam’s fragrance went straight to number one as the best selling celebrity fragrance in The Fragrance Shop. Billie is launching pushchairs. A lot of things are happening due to TOWIE, but the real success if in them as individuals. Fans are following them.”
So when it comes to her products, is Ferne going to be hands on or is she happy for her name to be slapped on any old thing. The question provokes the first Essexism of the interview: ‘Oh my God.’
“Oh my God. It’s easy to just put your name to something but I want it to be organic and something that I believe in,” continues McCann.
“Also, because there will be beauty products, I will actually want to use them. I would never promote anything that I don’t believe in.”
It’s at this point that someone in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume struts past. But although new to this world, BLE hasn’t fazed Ferne.
“I loved it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever been to before,” she says. “It’s crazy, with all the little characters walking about.”
And when a regular member of The Only Way is Essex calls your industry “crazy”, you know it means something.