Although there’s nothing like frequent spot play to boost visibility for your fledgling property, the spokescharacter strategy comes with a big caveat: the link between property and product might become so strong in the consumer consciousness that you have trouble separating the two down the road.
Such is the predicament facing Fido Dido co-producers Carrere/V.I.P. and Honest Entertainment as they attempt to develop a TV show and new merch around the famed spokesdoodle. Given his mass-media ubiquity as 7UP’s brand icon in the late ’80s, most Europeans and Canadians still indelibly link Fido with his soft drink work. ‘But that image is actually reductive to the character’s personality,’ says Patricia de Wilde, head of development for Fido’s Euro agent V.I.P. Attempting to downplay this connection in the interest of fostering brand longevity, food and beverage partners won’t be on the licensing playlist for the first couple of years of the relaunch campaign.
Currently supported by an active apparel-driven program in Europe, Asia and Brazil, the impending series marks Fido’s first media extension. London-based studio HIT Entertainment optioned the series rights and produced a MIPCOM trailer in 2000, but then rescinded the option agreement after purchasing Lyrick Studios and affirming its commitment to preschool production. Carrere signed on last September to develop a 52 x 13-minute 2-D show for fall 2003. Set in an urban café, the series follows the adventures of everyteen Fido and a zany bunch of his cohorts.
Paris-based Carrere/V.I.P. plans to limit the scope of the relaunch to Europe initially, and are in the process of securing two broadcasters as co-production partners. ‘It’s important for European broadcasters not to feel that this will be just another window for a pre-existing property,’ says de Wilde. ‘TV is going to add a new dimension that will really make Fido exist.’
This new dimension will also allow V.I.P. to extend Fido’s consumer products reach to include the previously under-exploited social expressions and publishing categories. Yet the global program will remain true to the property’s apparel roots, since that’s where the series’ 12-plus target lives, says Honest Entertainment’s executive VP Hamp Hampton. Other lifestyle categories–including back-to-school accessories, mobile phone accessories and music applications such as compilation CDs–will round out the program.
Although Fido’s existing merch tends to target teens ages 15 and up, broadcast realities necessitate a younger-skewing strategy for the relaunch. ‘TV broadcasting has demographic slots as well as time slots now,’ says V.I.P. president Jean-Michel Biard. ‘In Europe, broadcasters are now much more organized in terms of target, and the two that we are closing this deal with are very strong with the 12-plus demo.’ What’s more, notes Hampton, many toons won’t resonate with a large enough sampling of 15-year-olds to trigger any retail activity, thus forcing the project to go after a younger target.
When it comes to the U.S. market, New York-based Honest (which is managing the North and South American TV sales and licensing rights) will opt for a cautious, slow-build approach. ‘Because the 7UP campaign didn’t run in the U.S., licensing activity was limited here, so Fido won’t be as familiar to the audience we’re going after,’ says Hampton.