We chat to WildBrain md Jon Gisby about why he hopes the industry will embrace a more holistic approach to brand building.
You may have previously heard the name WildBrain, but its potential and what it can offer to the wider licensing industry, both now and in years to come, is perhaps only just being realised.
A wholly owned subsidiary of DHX Media, WildBrain is a global kids studio and network. As part of the DHX family, it works closely with CPLG and DHX Brands (the dedicated brand management arm which represents preschool and classic properties, and which was brought under WildBrain earlier this year) to offer all parts of the brand building and licensing jigsaw.
“Bringing the preschool and classic titles under the overall strategic management of WildBrain will enable us to create a more integrated direct to consumer strategy across digital platforms and consumer products that will benefit all teams and help recognise the full potential of the group’s capabilities,” Jon Gisby, md of WildBrain, explains.
The network has the “huge opportunity” to build brands says Jon, explaining that, within DHX Media, it is building an integrated set of capabilities that makes it unique in the market.
WildBrain works across a variety of different models. “Sunny Bunnies and Larva are brands that launched on YouTube first, building their audiences to a level that have picked up momentum with toy partners,” says Jon. “We work with studio partners including Mattel, Universal, BRB, Beano and Turner, plus we have produced animated content in the past year for Hearst’s Popeye, as well as for Hairdorables and Tulipop, and we have made toy-play short-form content for Mattel’s Polly Pocket, Spin Master’s PAW Patrol and for Sunny Bunnies.”
Jon continues: “From the DHX Media stable, we have a number of exciting key initiatives planned this year and next for Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, including new educational and bedtime animation content, and a greater focus on retail conversion using social platforms.”
In addition to this, due to its unique position, WildBrain can help companies identify if there are pockets of interest by brand in key markets, then can develop official YouTube channels and original content to fuel interest.
“Creatively, YouTube is a dynamic place. We can get content to audiences in three to six months, testing and iterating, based on real-time feedback. It’s a different model but one that brands are increasingly open to looking at, as they recognise that the platform provides ‘always on’ exposure and engagement,” says Jon.
Essentially, WildBrain seems to be offering a next generation brand building, so how is the licensing industry reacting? Jon admits that it’s still early days, but very exciting. “Over the last couple of years, the market has matured and we are now talking to brand owners, distributors, retailers, toy companies and licensees about how each of them can benefit from building awareness and engagement with global audiences via digital platforms,” he says. “We still help many of them to maximise awareness for existing brands, but with others we are helping develop and launch new IP, or new content that sorts existing offline IP. And we are also refreshing legacy brands, opening up new revenue streams for brands that have not been actively monetised for many years.
“We also complement this by helping brands make best use of their marketing budgets to build awareness and drive transactions. And it’s by integrating all of these capabilities that we can achieve the best results.”
Awareness and understanding is building fast, continues Jon; having a YouTube channel and a presence on social platforms is now a default part of any brand building strategy and a critical part of building awareness and engagement.
But Jon is also keen to point out that traditional models aren’t going anywhere. “We believe that there are many new models to building brands that kids love. Traditional linear broadcast is one route to building awareness, but equally so is an AVOD strategy with the vast access to large audiences. This year, I hope that our own projects will demonstrate how new content designed for YouTube can successfully keep awareness at the optimum level to drive demand for products.”
And what about the longer term strategy for WildBrain? “That licensed product providers and the all-important retailers embrace a more holistic approach to brand building,” Jon concludes. “We have to help prove the model, but we’re on the right track already and the next few years will see many more companies join us at this frontier.”
WildBrain: Need to know
A global kids studio and network, WildBrain builds and monetises kids brands on digital platforms such as YouTube, Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire among others. The network has more than 145,000 videos for over 600 kids’ brands in 22 languages.
One in three children worldwide, who access to YouTube, watch videos on the WildBrain network, which has over 95 million subscribers and has generated over 161 billion minutes of watch time across 32 billion views in 2018.
The company also produces original content for its own brands and for major studios, rights holders and toy companies with whom it partners. It works with over 60 partners, including brands such as Fireman Sam, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Shopkins, Irish Fairy Doors and Ben 10.
Part of DHX Media, it also manages much of its library of 13,000 half-hours of kids’ and family content such as Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, Inspector Gadget and Caillou among others.