Steve Manley and Paul Comben – COO and CEO of startup licensing and brand management agency AT New Media – are betting their first property Crazy Frog aka The Annoying Thing was not a one-off phenomenon borne of the internet. In fact, the Birmingham, England-based outfit has set up shop solely to mine new media for properties and to help existing IP owners from the TV and brand world navigate the ever-changing waters of digital content and product distribution.
It all started when Manley saw the first Crazy Frog music video on-line in 2005 and quickly located the creator, who had no plans to merchandise the character. Manley acquired the licensing rights and began selling kids Frog-emblazoned t-shirts via eBay, and within three months, he says, buyers snapped up 750,000 of them. Since then the Frog has leaped over to North America and 52 x one-minute shorts are in the works.
Manley acknowledges that retailers in the U.K. and other Western territories aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to take on new media merch and many remain stuck on TV- and film-driven properties. However, using the Frog as the example, he notes traditional retailers were more apt to take on the product once the Frog SKUs had achieved sales on-line and believes others will follow suit because the kid and teen audience is spending more time on new media.
The company is currently readying two new characters for launch, one for teens and something called I am Emo for kid consumers. AT New Media has landed worldwide merch rights to the Australian animated chameleon that helps users express their emotions visually through the universal language of color coding. For example, angry Emo appears red, while a pink Emo symbolizes being in love.
The character is available at iamemo.com and on MSN Messenger, and has just launched on mobile via Vodafone in Greece. Manley says Vodafone sold 26,000 Emo downloads during the character’s first 10 days on the service. The plan is now to launch Emo on mobile worldwide in 2007 and to roll out plush, apparel, accessories and posters by the holiday season next year.
Meanwhile, Manley remains on the lookout for other mobile/internet-friendly characters to pad AT New Media’s pipeline, and says he’s been both fielding and soliciting submissions from prodcos and animation studios in the U.K. His primary criterion is that the IP be fully developed, with a backstory and an environment surrounding it. LC