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Smiley gains legs, arms and a whole new audience

Reviving properties isn't limited to those born of television series. In the case of U.K.-based Smiley Licensing, which took over the licensing of the happy face from French company License Smile three years ago, relaunching a property often means pretty much...
June 1, 2000

Reviving properties isn’t limited to those born of television series. In the case of U.K.-based Smiley Licensing, which took over the licensing of the happy face from French company License Smile three years ago, relaunching a property often means pretty much recreating it.

To move away from the ‘happy hippie’ image of the 1970s, Smiley is undertaking a number of projects to reinvent the familiar icon.

The first step, which took three years, was to put arms and legs onto the smiley face and create a whole new section of characters. Newly available for licensing are the Smiley Family and Smiley Babies. Style guides with new themes for the smiley faces were created, including ‘Tribal Board’ and ‘Speed Gear’ for the sporty Smiley enthusiast, and ‘Oriental Spirit,’ which cashes in on the trend towards Asian-style clothing and accessories.

‘Because it’s a character, it enters into a lot of new categories for licensing,’ says Nicolas Loufrani, VP of marketing. Although there have been some initial licensees for the character-based Smileys, including cosmetic company Coty, as well as some plush, novelty, hair accessories and apparel licensees, the big push will come with an upcoming publishing program. Smiley Licensing is currently signing licensees for activity books, bath books, novelty, color sticker and two series of story books: Smiley Babies books for ages zero to three and Smiley Family titles for ages three to seven. Several publishing companies are in the process of signing deals, expected to be announced later this month. After the worldwide publishing program ramps up, the next step is securing a worldwide toy deal, an area Loufrani characterizes as Smiley’s ‘weakest category.’

Although there are currently 250 worldwide licensees producing traditional Smiley-faced products-including food company McCain’s which has sold more than 20 million packs of smiling fries in Europe over the past five years, and a strong showing in Asia among teen girls-the property will also get an added boost in some territories from Smiley being on TV. Currently, an animated Smiley promotional interstitial featuring new characters Smiley Junior and Smilette airs on LBC in Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt. As well, a one-hour Smiley puppet show called Kifouleich will air this fall on LBC, and Loufrani hopes to license the format and sell it to other networks. A 3-D animated series is also in development with several U.S. studios, along with a Smiley comic strip by a U.S. illustrator.

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