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“The quality of our content is what matters most”

Acamar’s Sandra Vauthier-Cellier tells us more about the acceleration of Bing’s global licensing programme.

With Brand Licensing Europe fast approaching, The Source caught up with a number of licensors and agents with successful properties in the preschool space to find out their plans for the remainder of the year, thoughts on the retail landscape, trends and why the show is so important for them.

Today: Sandra Vauthier-Cellier, chief commercial officer, Acamar Films

Which preschool brands will you be showcasing at BLE?

We’re excited to be making our debut as an exhibitor at BLE 2018, showcasing our award-winning CBeebies favourite, Bing. It’s an animated series celebrating the joyful, messy reality of preschool life and has seen extraordinary success since its launch on CBeebies in 2014. The international appetite for Bing continues to build, with close to 100 territories airing the series already – and several additional major broadcasters still to be announced.

Can you run through how the licensing programme is shaping up?

It’s shaping up nicely! Exciting news for the brand is that Golden Bear has just been appointed as the master toy partner for Bing and they will drive growth across the UK, Ireland, EMEA and Australia when the new toy line launches in autumn/winter 2019. Here in the UK, the licensing programme continues to grow, with consumer products from top-tier partners including HarperCollins, Alligator Books, Egmont, Immediate Media, Redan, Jolly Roger, Ravensburger, Amscan, Paper Projects, BBF, Spearmark, Kokomo, Dreamtex, Aykroyds, TDP, TVM Fashion Lab, Roy Lowe, William Lamb and Smiffys. Studio Canal, our DVD distributor for the UK has sold over 500,000 copies which is a phenomenal success.
This year we were thrilled to receive three industry nominations which is testament to the value of Bing; UK Licensing Awards 2018 Finalist for the Best Preschool Licensing Property, our Toilet Train Bing was shortlisted for Made For Mums Toy Award 2018 and our HarperCollins reading range has been selected as a Progressive Preschool Awards 2018 Finalist.

Bing3

We are expanding our global reach with licensing agents in Poland, Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Italy, South Africa and Australia. Given our newly signed broadcast partners in the Nordics, Czech Republic, CEE, Middle East, Russia, South Korea, South East Asia and soon in the US and Latam, we are now looking forward to meeting potential licensing agents for representation in these markets.

In the experiential category, an exciting new addition came in 2018 with the launch of our first UK stage show, Bing Live! The production sees Bing and his friends discovering the magic of theatre for the first time, brought to life by internationally acclaimed puppet designer Tahra Zafar. 60 UK venues are currently confirmed until April 2019, with more to be announced. The Bing Live! Gala took place on June 24 with over 800 attendees including celebrity parents and their Bingsters.

Early this year an exclusive partnership with Vue brought Bing to the big screen, with over 27,000 fans enjoying what was the second best-selling show on the day of launch behind Avengers: Infinity War. We are now planning to roll out the Bing at the Cinema experience internationally, with Poland, Italy and the Netherlands as the lead markets.

Elsewhere, parents and their little ones can enjoy the Bing’s Picnic show at CBeebies Land Alton Towers which was new for Spring 2018. Another new partner was Super Camps, who ran Bing themed activities for over 12,000 Under 5s throughout the summer across 83 schools. In addition, Bing and Flop made their debut at Butlin’s resorts from mid-September 2018, which received a tremendous response from visitors.

Not only has the experiential programme seen huge success, but it’s also had a ripple effect on the rest of the licensing programme, providing the right exposure to grow an audience who truly love Bing and can’t wait to get their hands on Bing merchandise via events such as Bing Live!, screenings at Vue, or at retail. This is borne out of the popularity of our apparel range: a particularly strong category that has continued to expand.

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Will there be any new launches or sneak peaks?

We will be making significant announcements at BLE and in the coming months as we roll out in North America, Latam and Asia which will introduce Bing to new audiences around the world. We’ll also be giving visitors to our BLE stand a preview of our pipeline of new content, marketing themes, consumer facing initiatives and experiential activities, as well as new style guides for 2019.

Golden Bear, our new master toy partner will strengthen further our consumer products programme when the new toy line launches next year.

Have you seen any major trends emerging over the course of 2018 in the preschool space? As a brand owner, how have you been able to react to these?

Our team has been working in the preschool industry long enough to know how rapidly trends emerge. The speed of development on both the creative and production side of the business presents exciting challenges to us as brand owners: we need to keep delivering to the high standard that retailers and consumers demand. As an independent company, Acamar has the flexibility to move quickly – something I find incredibly fulfilling.

The consumer is exposed to a lot of content nowadays.  There is a boom in quality, digital strategies and new technologies. We know from the success of our social media channels that we have a highly engaged grown-up community who are keen to share and learn from each other. This community allows us to receive direct and instant feedback on a variety of issues, and in particular on our consumer products – requests from parents for more girls’ apparel designs for example.

The rapid growth of YouTube is at the heart of our content creation plan: our ambition is to become, in our own right, a global broadcaster in the digital realm. The ways in which children consume content means that YouTube is a crucial platform to deliver engaging and entertaining Bing content to as many countries as possible, alongside terrestrial TV launches. Acamar has embraced this opportunity. This year we built a YouTube studio in our new London office and recruited highly experienced in house content producers and editors. Bing is available on YouTube globally and we now have Bing local language YouTube channels in UK, Poland, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Over the next three months we’ll also be launching in Russia and The Netherlands.

There are still large territories left for Bing to launch in (USA, LATAM, Japan, India, China) and we’re really excited about the opportunities and learnings that we will be able to bring with us when creating our channels in those countries.

Bing4

How important is BLE for you when it comes to showing your preschool brands?

BLE is a major international event for the retail, promotions and licensing business, and the ideal platform to update the industry on the continued global growth of Bing. As this is our first time exhibiting at the show under the Acamar Films banner, we’re keen to meet with retailers and new and existing partners – both UK based and international – to unlock opportunities across a number of categories that will ensure success in multiple territories for years to come.

What messages will you be looking to convey to licensees and potential licensees at the show?

Bing is beloved by preschoolers and their grown-ups for its celebration of the everyday challenges that young children face. It’s a truly universal subject and one that’s resonating with audiences around the globe. It’s also important to reiterate that the Bing series provides an honest depiction of these highs and lows of everyday life from a preschoolers’ perspective – a unique viewpoint for a children’s property, and one that is extraordinarily valuable in its appeal. Fundamentally, the quality of our content is what matters most. Above all, you need fantastic, engaging content that children take into their hearts.

The acceleration of the Bing global licensing programme is underpinned by an expanded and highly experienced executive team at Acamar, with a recentralised in-house media sales, licensing and merchandising division, on-going digital and content development along with investment in multiple consumer touch-points. This in-house set up and structure means we’re able to manage all areas of the business with each department – media sales, content, digital, CP, marketing and creative – all working cohesively towards the same goal – to stay truly authentic to Bing and bring his joyfulness to the whole world.

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How healthy do you think the preschool licensed sector is in general?

The sector overall is thriving, exciting and full of creativity. Of course, there is fierce competition throughout the industry, which drives us to develop to the highest standard the best possible Bing experience for our Bingsters and their grown-ups. As everyone is aware, the loss of TRU has directly impacted the sector and the uncertainty of other retailers is also a concern.  However, we are seeing growth in live events and themed shows which is a key – and very exciting – component for this age group.

How easy is it for new brands to break through at the moment?

It is very difficult as the market is overcrowded with new IP all the time.   The retail climate continues to challenge licensors, but it also demonstrates how strong the quality of the programming content needs to be to keep our audience engaged and to cut through at retail. In the preschool sector you have the additional challenge of needing to appeal to both the children and their parents. As always, a multi-channel content distribution strategy is crucial, alongside an on-going future content roll out strategy. Staying true to your values and having an emotional connection to your audience is essential. Social media gives you that opportunity as this is the ideal way to speak directly to your final customers. There is an element of developing the right content at the right time and the right place.

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