Germany’s growing kid concern TV-Loonland has made its first foray into international licensing with the May launch of Loonland Merchandising UK. Although the unit’s immediate task will be to get the ball rolling on merch programs for some of TV-L’s 145 kids titles, the three-year plan calls for Loonland Merchandising UK to amass enough extracurricular properties to make it one of the top licensing agencies in Britain.
Head of licensing and merchandising John Knox, whose portfolio includes stints as managing director at Paramount Communications Consumer Products Division UK and European director of licensing at Warner Bros., will manage the division, and he’s looking forward to getting started with a blank canvas. ‘We’re really setting the licensing operation up from zero base,’ he says. ‘We’re not taking on inherited license agreements or inherited relationships with manufacturers, so we can set the culture ourselves.’
Planning to deliver highly desirable consumer products, Knox’s strategy focuses on avoiding the formulaic ‘mug,
T-shirt, key chain’ approach. ‘We’re trying to reflect the very distinct differences that exist in each of the properties and really push their boundaries.’ According to Knox, all key categories will also be covered, but in a fresh way with cutting-edge product design.
Right off the bat, Loonland Merchandising UK will be mapping out U.K. licensing programs for: Cramp Twins (26 half hours), an animated series slated for broadcast in October on Cartoon Network UK and CBBC; Connie the Cow (52 x seven minutes), an animated preschool series coming to Disney Channel UK in the spring; and Little Ghosts (39 x seven minutes), a preschool toon airing on ZDF in Germany later this year and on CiTV in spring 2002.
Toys and games, apparel, social expressions, toiletries, publishing, stationery, fast-food promo premiums, posters, stickers and collectibles will be the initial categories explored for Cramp Twins, with the first phase of product slated to launch at retail in October.
Phase two will target nontraditional licensing and promotional partnerships with financial services and cleaning product companies (because the twins’ mother has an obsessive interest in cleaning and hygiene), as well as direct-to-retail deals in multiple product categories.
Product and promos will replicate the ‘opposite attack’ principle of the two central characters-the diametrically opposed twins Lucien and Wayne. Food promos, for instance, will mix opposing tastes like salty and sweet. From an apparel standpoint, the design initiative will have a ‘double-edged’ approach, one mirroring Lucien’s gentler approach to life, and the other capturing Wayne’s somewhat psychotic personality. In seeking licensees, Knox is eyeing companies that are ‘slightly off-center and eccentric.’
On the acquisitions front, Knox is looking for properties targeting kids, teens and family, and envisions moving into branded arenas such as sports.
Thomas Kubeile, managing director of the U.K. unit’s Munich-based parent company Loonland Merchandising, says he will be looking at setting up a similar licensing unit in France soon.