Three days into his new role as general manager of Warner Bros. Consumer Products UK & Ireland, Preston Kevin Lewis is sitting down to talk to Licensing.biz.
His office may still be full of boxes waiting to be unpacked, but Lewis knows exactly what his plan is going forward. Two things are immediately clear – he loves Warner Bros. with a passion, and he sees opportunity to grow the business everywhere.
“Not only is the UK a thrilling market in terms of size and scope, but I think that when you look at how many things are actually done here – in terms of the execution of brands in the marketplace, the way that multi-platform programmes are delivered – it is all very exciting,” he explains.
Lewis began his career at HBO – “I knew very early on, whatever I was going to do had to be entertainment-based” – taking HBO original movies to video, before moving to MTV as director of marketing. From there, it was a trip from the East Coast to the West Coast of America to join Disney Consumer Products, initially working with the franchise group on the likes of Cars, The Incredibles and Chicken Little, before beginning to work on the global Winnie the Pooh business.
After three years with DCP he got an offer from Time Warner to return to the company, initially as VP of international licensing based at Burbank before taking the opportunity to turnaround the Australian business.
“It’s not often we get these opportunities to turnaround businesses,” Lewis says. “Normally what happens is we get opportunities to grow businesses by ten per cent, 15 per cent … but to take something that was broken and fix it is a very, very different proposition and something that was very exciting and thrilling to do.
“The place where Warner Bros. sits in Australia today is a very different place than it was six years ago and that’s exciting to me.”
To the UK then, and the focal point for Lewis here is on exponential growth. “It’s about how do we take this wonderfully passionate, well regarded business that we have and take it to the next level. Are there bigger programmes that we are able to do for our brands? Are there bigger multi-platform, cross divisional opportunities for us? Are there larger ways for us to align with our retail partners in the marketplace.”
When it comes to the toy sector, Lewis believes that the heritage of the Warner Bros. portfolio is a key factor in the firm’s phenomenal success here.
“These brands are just strong,” he emphasises. “Parents don’t have to question whether a brand is appropriate for their child; they instinctively know because they all grew up with these brands.
“But we also spend a lot of time focused on the playability of brands and innovation. We have amazing toy partners who are experts in product development, innovation, research of trends across the world and they make sure we can deliver toy solutions in the marketplace that are going to mean something.
“So, when you combine known brands with amazing toy partnerships that are focused on innovation and product development, with great marketing activation programmes, I don’t think you can lose.”
However, Lewis is quick to point out he knows the firm can never get comfortable: “I think that’s the other piece that underlines what we are. We acknowledge what we do well, but we always ask what can we do better. That constant evaluation allows us to keep winning.”
For toy retailers visiting WBCP at BLE, he wants them to take away Warner’s “absolute excitement” at building stronger relationships with them. “We’re looking at how we can create long-term plans for how we can engage and deliver meaningful solutions to them for customers,” Lewis concludes. “That’s what they should know and I’m hoping that they are just as interested in meeting with us regularly to create those kind of plans.”
WARNER BROS. AT BLE
Kicking off the presentation slate, WBCP is continuing the celebration for Batman’s 75th anniversary – championing the Batman Arkham gaming franchise, as well as highlighting the summer 2016 movie blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Staying with theatrical, Middle Earth will come to BLE in the form of The Hobbit Trilogy and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, while the firm will also be talking to partners about the Godzilla and Harry Potter franchises.
Also in the spotlight will be WBCP’s classic animated properties, supported by a slate of new content from Warner Bros. Animation. This includes Be Cool Scooby-Doo – a new animated comedy series featuring Scooby-Doo and the gang – and The Tom and Jerry Show, that offers a new take on the original series. Wabbit – A Looney Tunes Production is a new series featuring Bugs Bunny and co, while the Looney Tunes Active brand extension continues.
In addition, WBCP and its international licensing partners will showcase fan favourites such as the DC Comics portfolio (licensed on behalf of DC Entertainment), The Big Bang Theory and the Hanna-Barbera catalogue of characters among others. Best-in-class licensees will also be commended in the Warner Bros. Consumer Products Golden Bunnies awards.