With annual global retail sales hovering around the US$6-billion mark, European retail figures shooting up from US$25 million to US$1.2 billion in just five years, and Asian business tripling every year since 2005, Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products is reorganizing its executive ranks to handle the next phase of its international expansion.
As president of the fastest-growing division of MTV Networks International, Leigh Anne Brodsky has instituted a new global management structure that sees former SVP & MD of EMEA Jean Philippe Randisi and Indra Suharjono, SVP of NVCP Australasia, take on co-managing director roles for international markets, with each retaining day-to-day oversight of their individual regions. (Randisi now looks after Europe, Latin America and Canada, while Suharjono will steward activity in Asia, the Middle East and global publishing.)
Additionally, Brodsky has appointed global SVP category heads, positions that previously didn’t exist, to coordinate international efforts in key lines of business. She’s tapped Sherice Torres (former SVP of hard goods) to oversee music and video, bumped Manuel Torres from his post as SVP of Latin America to handle toys & interactive, and charged Hal Snik (ex-SVP of soft goods) with looking after all other US licensing activity, including soft lines and packaged goods.
‘We’ve been managing the business as global over the last few years, but wanted to formally give some tweaks to the organization,’ says Brodsky. To that end, the new global marketing and strategy team she’s assembled will craft strategies for the international rollouts of new properties, along with the current portfolio that includes bestsellers SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.
Moreover, Brodsky intends for the newly formalized lines of communication to effectively locate best practices, products and creative surrounding Nick IP from various parts of the world and make them readily available to the entire organization. For example, in the past 12 months or so, NVCP has had two programs from Japan that rolled out globally. The first was a co-branding and licensing deal between Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and Blue’s Clues. The resulting mid-tier products were originally targeted at Japan’s biggest consumers of cute things, the office ladies, and proved successful enough that Sanrio put the products in its US stores. A European rollout is now in the works.
Similarly, Japanese hip-hop artist and designer Nigo created a line of SpongeBob t-shirts (US$90) and plush (US$250) to sell in his 22 Bathing Ape boutiques. The designs have since moved to Bathing Ape outlets in New York, Paris and London, and are currently on their third run since the beginning of 2008. Brodsky says the new structure will facilitate a lot more of this kind of activity.
On the flip side, the institution of the global management team will also affect the way worldwide deals and subsequent product development are handled. ‘For example,’ says Brodsky, ‘when we’re working on our Dora line with Mattel, we want the people doing initial work on new product to have an eye on how it will play globally – asking, ‘Will it provide the right mix of price points and packaging that can work across several territories?”
For his part, Randisi adds that international would traditionally give its opinion on what markets a product might work in after the deal was done in the US. ‘With this new structure,’ he says, ‘we can have that discussion before we sign the US deal and identify at the outset whether the partner we’re talking to is one we want globally or just for the US or Europe – so the deal is structured from the beginning to deliver the best platform for all territories.’
He’s also particularly excited about the new creative opportunities opened up by the global group having its finger on the pulse of regional trends and fashions. ‘Instead of having one creative center that feeds the world, we’re now able to leverage different creative centers that can feed each other,’ he says. Movement has already started in that direction, with the London-based team hatching new designs for Diego that combine the animated character with photo-real images of animals; products in this vein will be rolling out in the US and Canada later this year.
Of course, Randisi and his counterpart Suharjono are still charged with growing business in their individual territories, and both have a few opportunities for development in their cross-hairs.
Success with SpongeBob and Dora in the UK, France and Germany have been largely responsible for the 1,500% increase in NVCP’s international revenues since 2004 (that’s no typo, people), but Randisi is aiming to push the level of activity in second-tier Euro territories including Italy, Spain, Nordic, Greece and Israel through his network of local agents.
Additionally, his team is currently working with MTVNI’s channel and program sales teams to identify what bets it wants to make in Eastern Europe. Certainly, the launch this month of Nickelodeon Poland has bumped up plans for that territory. Randisi says the new channel, along with Dora’s placement on free-to-air TV Polska, is laying the groundwork for a wide-reaching consumer products launch for the preschool property in 2010.
Suharjono, meanwhile, is assessing her new Middle East remit. The planned hard launch of Nickelodeon Arabia in September is on-course, and as the channel is free-to-air, it should penetrate more quickly and accelerate CP activity. Dora’s been on local TV for a year, so that presence combined with Nick Arabia airtime means products will be hitting the Middle East, particularly Dubai, in November this year. She’s working with local agent and channel partner Arab Media Group on the program, but Suharjono says licensing talent is limited in Dubai. Consequently, she’ll be relying on her Singapore office to help train ME partners.