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What does it take to make a property successful? The right toy. . .

While there is no fail-safe secret formula for taking over the world (don't tell Pinky and the Brain), success increasingly relies on staging more visibility than the next character. Whether it's a TV show or a toy-or both-without a superior platform...
February 1, 2000

While there is no fail-safe secret formula for taking over the world (don’t tell Pinky and the Brain), success increasingly relies on staging more visibility than the next character. Whether it’s a TV show or a toy-or both-without a superior platform plot, fahgeddaboudit.

This issue, we take a look at the stepped-up efforts producers must make to promote their shows once they’ve hit the airwaves (‘Life after sales-why indies can’t sit on their promotional laurels as soon as the ink is dry,’ page 29), and a toy company’s extensive original on-line animation production efforts (‘Small toycos turn to the Web to create shows for their toys,’ page 42).

Beyond the QSR deals and other promotional components prodcos and partners line up to create awareness around new series, the next area that becomes crucial in the life of a property is merchandise licensing-where TV becomes toy.

Beyond the additional revenue potential, this relationship helps advertise and promote the property, which David Palmer, VP of marketing at Sony Pictures Family Entertainment, assesses as increasingly ‘vital.’ Palmer goes on to stress that ‘it’s vital to have a great partner, someone who’s devoted to the success of the show and has the creative abilities to translate the show elements into an innovative toy line.’

For the P.O.V. from the other side of the licensing fence, this issue’s Toy Fair special report looks at the pros and cons of licensed versus original toys from the toy manufacturers’ perspective. Unimaginative translation from screen to toy often seems to be a culprit contributing towards unfulfilled sales expectations-the bane of the licensing world’s existence. In our Advertising to Kids report, creative directors cite ‘stories’ as a key element to grab kids attention, and stipulate that ‘the story has to spring straight from the heart of the product in question.’ Arguably, all the advice on embodying the product in compelling ad creative is applicable for successfully taking a TV or film property to toydom.

With the current state of toy technology, there is less excuse for toys not to pick up on the essence of the original entertainment property. Indeed, the technology exists to practically replicate a toon as a toy, right down to interaction and-in the case of Chicken Run toys-texture (‘Squishy toys for Chicken Run,’ page 95 in RadarScreen). Perhaps this is most crucial for film, where the window to capture imagination (and sales) is smaller.

About half of the over US$20-billion toy industry consists of electronic toys. For the first time this year, most of the list to Santa at our house fell squarely in the high-tech category-the QX3 Computer Microscope (endless digital capture and effects application fun), the Nick Click camera (again, more fun turning your friends into toons than previously possible), and the K-Nex five-in-one robot kit. The good news for licensors is, like Nick’s camera, all of this toy tech is eminently brandable and exponentially more fun when you splice some well-known characters into the mix.

Previous iterations of interactive toys, like tamagotchis or Furby-which have qualities in common with pets-were an interesting fork in the road for the licensing side of the toy biz. They began as original toys, but are ideally designed to either have licensed characters applied to them, or to spawn their own entertainment vehicles, given the nature of their character as toys. Their next-gen offspring-E.T. Furby and Digimon-indicates that, like previous evolutions of toys, there will be cross-pollination, with characters now fluidly moving across platforms with more of their uniqueness intact. The technology is out there (‘High-tech toys,’ page 65).

Cheers, MM

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