The Anatomy of Success

Posted on: Friday 02 July 2010 4:57am

Mapping the DNA of a winning children’s property. A creative and commercial perspective on the key factors for success in a challenging marketplace.

Moderator: Nick Underwood, Commercial Director, Open Mind Productions


Ken Anderson, CEO and Creative Director, Red Kite

Yvonne Body, Head of Co-productions and Acquisitions, Beyond Distribution

John Carolan, Buying Manager, Sainsbury’s

David Riley, Managing Director, The Egmont Publishing Group

Barbara Robinson, Category Manager, Mothercare

Neil Ross-Russell, Managing Director Children’s and Licensing, BBC Worldwide

Rob Wijeratna, Joint MD, Rocket Licensing

With a panel of experts drawn from backgrounds that represent the various potential stages in the life cycle of a project, this session examined what exactly makes for a winning, successful children’s property.

Ken Anderson, producer at Red Kite, shared how the landscape for getting projects commissioned has changed radically. Co-productions are now essential, productivity and agility are necessary, as is the ability to spot good things and nurture talent. Ken also offered the analogy of creating fire: your hope is to create a spark that captures others’ attention and is turned into a big, roaring fire (around which you can all then dance naked).

From there, Neil Ross-Russell from BBC Worldwide offered a perspective on the commissioners’ role. For them, it’s the ancillary that is important: how can a project inspire and spur retail sales? At the core, though, has the property got the potential to break through and really resonate with parents? Could it provide a play pattern that fits in with families, giving something to create a memorable interaction for parent and child? Yvonne Body, a distributor from Beyond Distribution, added to this by saying how important it is for distributors to be involved in a project early — seeing scripts, concept art, animation clips — though generally they’re not interested in a project yet if it isn’t already commissioned. She also mentioned briefly that as a distributor, they don’t like to carve up rights globally — since the world isn’t split up so neatly.

David Riley, from Egmont Books said when you publish a brand, you’re tapping into a powerful, long-standing emotional connection that is formed between parents and children. From his perspective as a publisher, he looks for three things in properties: creativity (is it, simply, a good story?), targeting (does the producer know who the property’s primary user is, who the gatekeeper is to buying it, and whether it fits into a larger trend?), and framework (is it part of a broader, developed strategy with a good production company, other licensees, etc?).

Rob Wijeratna, of Rocket Licensing, said that the part licensors play is in part based on exposure. They will only take on a brand once a commission has already been secured and, preferably, a broadcast date is set. He said that it is important for them and other licensors to really know and relate to a brand… so working closely with producers is key.

One of the two retailers of the group, John Carolan, a buyer for Sainsbury’s, offered a perspective on the end of a project’s life cycle. He said that brands are ever-important: the marketplace is divided into value players and premium brands, with very little in between. Barbara Robinson, of Mothercare, claimed retailers tend to very much work on a herd mentality. They don’t want things that are incredibly different or out there, but rather trusted brands that customers know, and that fit with them — particularly, brands that have a message and values that resonate with parents and offer a shared emotional experience with their child.

According to the panelists, it is, in the end, all about recognising and investing in quality, always improving, and having a project with a message and value that connects with parents and children.

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