CMC Rights Exchange @ London Book Fair – Beyond the Book: Extending Brands
This session concluded the dedicated conference part of the CMC Rights Exchange @ London Book Fair (16 April 2015)
- Tightly managed licencing ensures another 50 years for ‘The Gruffalo’.
- 50 million books sold: how can the audience for ‘Beast Quest’ be expanded?
- ‘Brambly Hedge’ is for the “Kirstie & Phil generation”.
The session focused on three publishing brands that don’t have a large presence on television, and their extension into other media.
Michael Dee presented ‘Beast Quest‘, a fantasy series from Orchard Books that has sold 40 – 50 million books worldwide. A hundred titles in the series have been published since 2007 and they are credited with helping boys from seven years upwards to read. The books are credited to Adam Blade, which is in fact a collective “house name” for several writers from Working Partners.
To extend the appeal of ‘Beast Quest’ to an even greater audience, Coolabli have partnered with Miniclip. With an eighteen-month turn around, Michael believes the gaming route is much faster than the production of a television version. The game is free, but Coolabi have already added new licences including an annual from Pedigree, gaming cards from Top Trumps, apparel from Fashion UK and beanbags from Peters Books. They plan to monetise the game itself through in game purchasing.
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler don’t want any more stories featuring the Gruffalo, the successful books being described as two individual poems. This could have held back the brand on other platforms, but Michael Rose believes the author’s and illustrator’s integrities are central to making ‘The Gruffalo’ a publishing property, which will last for the next fifty years. His benchmarks are the continuing success of ‘Peter Rabbit’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’.
First published by Macmillan in 1999, new editions have been published each year with 2014 seeing a 15th anniversary edition of ‘The Gruffalo’ and a tenth anniversary edition of ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’. Both books have been animated for Christmas day broadcasts for BBC One with long term repeatability and continue to sell as downloads and DVDs. As the authors never wanted a feature length film or full TV series made, their other books, ‘Room with a Broom’ and ‘Stickman’ are being animated in the same half hour format. Michael acknowledges that this is an expensive way of working but it seems to have paid off; they have retail partnerships with Sainsbury’s, M&S and Debenhams and around thirty, tightly controlled, licences. These include a Woodland Trust tree-planting scheme using Gruffalo branded Yorkshire Tea packs.
The ‘Brambly Hedge’ series of books by Jill Barklem has already stood the test of time; it is now thirty-five years old. The original books are still published by Harper Collins. Vickie O’Malley at Rockpool Licensing is refreshing and extending its appeal. A new style guide has been produced which is both contemporary and traditional. There is an adult focus for the re-launch – fans, gifters and collectors – and they will be using social media to reach them. Parents are targeted, with ‘Dragons of Walton Street’ creating ‘Brambly Hedge’ branded nursery furniture.
There was a TV series; HIT and Cosgrove Hall produced eight half hour shows for BBC, with seven million watching on Christmas Day 1996. Working with HIT, they are making the shows available as VOD and on YouTube.