THE BIG INTERVIEW: Angeles Blanco, Senior Director, Licensing & Merchandising, Outfit7

Talking Tom & Friends now has 230 million monthly active users - more than Instagram and fast catching Twitter. We find out what's next for the brand.
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The Talking Tom & Friends brand appears to be that rare thing – a property now in its fourth year but continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate. Indeed, from a standing start in 2010, Talking Tom has now increased its downloads to 1.7 billion and – perhaps even more impressively – it has 230 million active users (or subscribers).

To put this into some kind of context, a quick search on Google shows that Facebook has 1.23 billion, Twitter 255 million and Instagram 200 million active monthly users. Talking Tom is in pretty good company it seems.

These numbers, however, mean much more to Outfit7 – the brand owner of Talking Tom & Friends – than simply a popularity contest. It’s a great selling point to potential licensees.

“It is a really important message to give to the licensing community,” Angeles Blanco, senior director, licensing and merchandising at Outfit7, tells Licensing.biz. “Licensees very much care about stability and longevity – they are going to invest with you in the brand and they want to make sure that consumer awareness will still be there by the time their products actually come out. And what we can see is that brand awareness is continuing to grow.

“In a way, this isn’t surprising because the platform itself is expanding so rapidly. Right now, smartphone penetration is actually bigger than pay TV. It is much more important to have a strong brand right now on a smartphone platform than on pay TV.”

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Talking Tom & Friends currently has over 40 licensees around the world, covering several categories from apparel and paper, to back to school and promotions.

Outfit7 also has a swathe of agents on board to work on licensing programmes in territories including the US, Canada, Latin America, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Nordics and Eastern Europe, Thailand, the Phillippines and Malaysia.

The firm is planning to meet up with all the agents at Licensing Expo next week, as well as existing and potential licensees, with enhancing the interactivity part of the brand particularly high on the agenda.

“This year’s Licensing Expo will be our biggest to date,” Blanco continues. “The universal appeal of Talking Tom & Friends across multiple genres, beautiful graphics and style guide – coupled with the commercial opportunities the new TV series presents and the level of consumer awareness already surrounding the brand – makes the property a ‘can’t miss’ at this year’s show, and an attractive proposition for driving negotiations forward.”

You might have noticed the mention of a TV series there. 52 episodes of 11 minutes will begin to roll out in Q1 2015 – while Outfit7 is also planning to generate webisodes connected to the TV series - and is the next step in the Talking Tom & Friends story. New characters will be introduced for example, furthering broadening the appeal of the franchise to licensees.

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“Talking Tom may have been born on mobile but from the very beginning there was video content – this is what made the brand so popular,” points out Blanco. “We publish new videos on YouTube on a weekly basis, so that when the fans come back there is something new. We schedule our YouTube channel in the same way that you schedule traditional TV; this way it becomes destination viewing. What should be clear is that the principle of storytelling has not changed simply because there is new technology.”

Talking Tom & Friends is very much a universal brand, and Blanco says that Outfit7 is in the incredibly lucky position of being equally successful in both East and West.

“Our top countries are US, China, Brazil, Russia, the Middle East, Germany and the UK. These territories are all traditionally very different, but we are incredibly successful in all of them. The characters translate well, but as a company that has been our overall mission statement from the beginning – to be universal.”

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It’s certainly been a strong four years for Talking Tom, but this is really just the start, says Blanco.

“For 2014, we want to make sure we work very well with our agents to bring exciting new products into every market in the world. We know that we have a lot of demand coming directly from users – we constantly have requests from people who want to see more product coming from us.

“There is definitely more to come; even without a TV series we already have this level of licensees – more than some brands which have been on TV.

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