“Everything to do with your brand needs to have as much passion as the programme that inspired them,” Andrew Kerr states. Four months into his new role as executive director for consumer products and marketing, international at Entertainment Rights, it’s clear that Kerr has bought the passion which is so prevalent at Ragdoll into the Hammersmith-based firm.
Kerr spent over seven years with Ragdoll, working on brands such as Teletubbies, Brum and In The Night Garden and he tells Licensing.biz that taking that experience and being able to apply it to the pre-school portfolio at ER is a huge advantage.
Which is a good thing, certainly, because it’s an important time for the company at the moment. Corporate issues aside, ER has been busy making sure its portfolio is top notch; working on a new-look Postman Pat series, the spin-off Guess with Jess and Rupert Bear among other franchises, as well as acquiring new shows with an edge, such as Tinga Tinga Tales.
“Postman Pat: Special Delivery Service is the next evolution of 25 wonderful years of heritage,” Kerr enthuses. “It takes Pat and puts him in a setting that is exciting and fresh and gives him all kinds of wonderful new gadgets and vehicles, and just breathes new innovation and new life into a brand that people have a huge amount of affection for.”
Airing on Cbeebies and BBC2 from the autumn, the show is being backed by a wide array of licensees. There are over 30 SDS licensees; a mixture of existing partners who were keen to renew their deals and take on SDS, plus a handful of new licensees that are SDS specific. Character Options is the master toy partner and it has created a varied line of product which will allow children to recreate what they see on-screen and create their own scenarios. But the message is that SDS is how Pat is going to live on shelves from now on.
“No brand is more closely identified with ER as Postman Pat is,” Kerr continues. “The pressure to move the brand on and take opportunities to engage with new generations is a great responsibility. I think to ER’s credit, it’s been done absolutely correctly. All the charm, everything from Pat as people know him currently remains in SDS.”
Pat’s loyal companion, Jess, has also been given his own show, Guess with Jess. It’s been in production for a while, but now the firm is confident the show is in a place where it can be potentially unveiled at this October’s Brand Licensing Europe.
“We’re very excited; it’s a grand unveiling of sorts,” says Kerr. “I know that having seen the content, how impressed people are going to be with it. It’s the best that CG can bring to life on-screen in richness and texture in equal measure.”
Rupert Bear also remains a key part of ER’s catalogue and is now beginning to expand internationally, while Kerr is also excited about new signing Tinga Tinga Tales. Yes, it’s different and, yes, it’s ambitious, but Kerr embraces both of these things, knowing from the time he spent working on Teletubbies at Ragdoll that these are plus points for a property.
“We feel the show is very special and very, very different, something we haven’t done before at ER,” he explains. “We have strong broadcast platforms in the UK and US with Cbeebies and Playhouse Disney and we can extend the brand in a global way which sometimes you can’t. You have to look at every challenge that comes up when you represent a property and you have to be able to turn that into something, into an opportunity. The things that are different and the things that people question, you need to be able to turn those into positives; these are absolutely the reasons why these shows succeed.
“I think Tinga’s like that, it’s different and people will go ‘wow it’s going to be gorgeous, tell me how it’s going to work as a brand’. But I think you have to be prepared and convinced yourself that it’s incredible and the show is going to work. The Tinga team have created something that is very different and unusual.”
Kerr’s unwavering passion for ER’s brands is impressive and when he says that it’s not sufficient any more just to have a good idea, you have to be convinced of your show’s reason for being, you know he’s right.
“One of the things I’m a big believer in, is that you have to pay attention to detail and you have to really demonstrate to the children watching the show that a level of care and passion has gone into the production. Kids see through shoddily made shows, they see through bad stories. They are as selective an audience as teens, tweens and adults; they know what they like and, they may not be able to articulate that, but you can definitely see evidence of the shows and stories that are well characterised and stay with them.”
Kerr’s advice is pretty simple, but bang on the money: “You absolutely have to know your content inside and out, why it exists and be unapologetic about bringing different kinds of content to the table for children. Always make sure that children are at the centre of the process, how they engage with the product/content on-screen and, just as importantly, how you extend that experience onto shelves. Everything to do with the brand needs to be valid.”