Universal’s Hannah Mungo tells Source why U-Vault is a business priority for the company.
Firstly, can you run through some of the key brands which are included in U-Vault?
Hannah Mungo, country director UK & Ireland, UBD: “U-Vault spans more than 100 years of studio history. The archive is vast, it includes all genres and some of the most iconic movies and movie franchises of all time. Properties include Back to the Future, Love Actually, Bridesmaids, Where’s Wally, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, JAWS, Woody the Woodpecker, Casper, Knight Rider, Scarface, Saved By the Bell, He-Man Masters of the Universe and much more. Through movies like Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisable Man and The Mummy, Universal created the Horror Movie genre and they sit within U Vault under the Universal Monsters umbrella. The various incarnations of the iconic Universal Pictures logo are highly licensable too; the scale of the opportunity is unprecedented.”
How important has U-Vault become to the UK business? What benefits do the brands offer to both licensees and retailers?
“Nostalgia has never been more of-the-moment and U-Vault is a business priority for us. 2019 was significant as we started to move beyond T-shirts and apparel into a slew of other categories including gift and accessories, and we expect that whole area to continue growing in 2020 and beyond.
“Properties like Back to the Future, JAWS and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial just keep going and going – their cultural significance can’t be underestimated. More recent movies like Love Actually and Bridesmaids are also piquing the attention of retailers and licensees looking for brands around which they can build consumer and seasonal narratives.”
What is the overall trend portfolio message?
“U-Vault is essentially a trend catalogue. It is a portfolio which hits different trends and seasons throughout the year whether it is the horror movies that sit under the Universal Monsters umbrella for Halloween, Bridesmaids for Hen Parties, Love Actually for Christmas or He-Man Masters of Universe and Back to the Future for a throwback to the 80’s.”
Looking at some highlights – Back to the Future is marking 35 years, can you tell us a bit more about what you have planned around the anniversary?
“Back to the Future is one of the most popular film trilogies of all time. The 35th anniversary will be a real boon for our U-Vault portfolio. The IP has built up a couple of generations of real equity and we know fans are going to want to mark the anniversary. In addition to year-long celebratory activities from UBD, Home Entertainment, Parks, there will be a multi-category UK licensing programme which will be led by fashion and supported by gift and stationery and some amazing collaborations with partners like Playmobil.”
Universal Monsters is also pretty high profile – can you tell us more about this? Which brands are included, some of the most recent activity and upcoming plans?
“Universal Monsters is the umbrella for movies like Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisable Man, The Mummy, Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Wolf Man – films that defined the horror genre, a genre that is the foundation of the studio and is experiencing a timely revival. High-end fashion houses like Prada, Moschino and A La Garconne have produced catwalk collections that are inspiring a trickle down to halo licensees like The Hundreds, Criminal Damage and Hype.”
Does the licensing approach need to be different when working with brands from U-Vault (as opposed to newer movie properties)? If so, what are the main differences?
“Yes, we approach the licensing of U-Vault properties differently. We are mindful of respecting the great legacy of the properties that sit within the portfolio. The fan base is often broad, crossing multiple generations so product needs to appeal to fans old and new and it tends to be fashion led rather than toy.
“Back to the Future is a great example. The programme being developed to support the 35th anniversary of the brand in 2020 will be fashion focused and supported by gift and stationery and some amazing collaborations with the likes of Playmobil appealing to the original fans and parents with kids. Retail requires a slightly different approach too. The creative execution needs to be current, clever and cool utilising existing content to maximise presence during the retail window and ensuring that the campaign is front of mind with consumers and drives maximum brand engagement.”
What would you most like to achieve with the U-Vault portfolio by the end of 2019 and into early 2020?
“This year was a big moment for us as we started to move beyond t-shirts and apparel into a slew of other categories including gift and accessories; and I expect that whole area to continue growing in 2020 and beyond. In general, we’ll be digging deeper into the U-Vault portfolio as we line up new partners, focus on brand appropriate collaborations and develop products that will work really well at retail and with consumers. So far, we have only scratched the surface with what we can do.”
And longer term, how do you see the U-Vault piece sitting with the rest of the UBD portfolio?
“We always look forward to continued growth, robust retail exposure and, most importantly, consumer connection. It is more crucial than ever to cultivate a special relationship between the consumer and properties. We are able to leverage some of the most-beloved franchises and properties on earth, so that is a great starting point. But we know that a great deal of work has to been done to sustain our IP in the public consciousness and to expand their imprint.
“In the next year, through strategic marketing and retail activations, we will continue our efforts to build innovative programs that bring the entertainment to the consumer and take our properties to places they have never been before.”