Created in 1979 with an initial print run of 150, Viz quickly became a national sensation with its circulation peaking in the late 1980s at 1.3 million per issue. This made it the third highest selling magazine in the UK and made household names of characters such as Sid the Sexist and Roger Mellie and, arguably, paving the way for lads’ mags like Loaded.
For those readers who don’t know – or are just too young to remember – Viz is made up of five sections that satirise the British media landscape: cartoon strips, satirical news pages, top tips, Profanisaurus and Letterbocks. The formula has remained the same throughout its 30 years, with the brand’s reach standing at over 600,000 in 2009.
Metrostar kicked off the licensing push last year and a number of partners are already on board: Smiffy’s (dress up), The Officers Club, Famous Forever and Push Merchandising (apparel), Blueprint Gaming (online/offline gaming) and Dennis Publishing (books).
Metrostar is now looking to expand the range of apparel into underwear, nightwear and leisurewear, while also breaking into new categories such as stationery, giftware and games.
“This is Viz’s first foray into licensing for a number of years and has been driven by the huge resurgence of interest in Viz – brand reach is over 20 per cent up in 2009 on 2007,” Metrostar boss Claire Potter explains to Licensing.biz. “In addition, healthy magazine and book sales prove that there is a substantial market for Viz and we’re energetically pursuing licensing opportunities in other product areas likely to appeal to readers.”
While the current style guide may be character-based, Potter is keen to utilise other Viz assets – including the top tips, Profanisaurus and spoof ads sections – in the licensing programme. However, she admits that certain aspects of the content can prove a challenge when it comes to licensing.
“I always encourage the doubters to have a read and see how long it takes them to laugh,” she says. “Luckily, most people in licensing appreciate high quality humour and many are big fans of Viz. I’m convinced that if you’re a licensee targeting this group of men, Viz can help you to grow market share – in mainstream as well as niche retail outlets.
“Next, for example, trialled a Johnny Fartpants t-shirt a few weeks ago. It was a great success and now they’re taking Sid the Sexist and looking to expand the product range into leisurewear.”
Potential licensees would also do well to remember the sheer scale of Viz and the impact that it had. “To a large extent, Viz created the comedy world in which we now live,” points out Potter. “I don’t think Little Britain would have been possible without Viz, for example.”
As well as Next, HMV and Play.com are currently stocking Viz apparel, while The Officers Club will launch its range in 2010. The books are sold in supermarkets, WH Smith and a variety of High Street book shops. Potter is now working on getting more fashion outlets, greetings shops and department stores on board to grow the brand even further.
The 30th birthday, of course, has helped to raise awareness of Viz, with various events – including the opening of an exhibition of artwork at the Cartoon Museum in London – generating some good media coverage. 2010 will see the publication of the 200th issue, which will again be supported by nationwide media coverage, plus the launch of a new Profanisaurus, while October will see the arrival of the 2011 annual.
“Viz has all the makings of an evergreen licensing brand – something which will always perform,” Potter says confidently. “The magazine is in rude health – which as the foundation of all things Viz is very important – and its ever changing content will keep the assets available to licensees fresh and interesting. I see a rosy future ahead.”