TV-Book-TV: Keep what's sacred and extend the brand

CANNES: Day 1 at Mipcom: Whoops! Can we call this Brandmania?

Consumer culture driven by technological enhancement and globalisation are today making every consumable into a brand. In the first session if Neil Court from Decode spoke about channels becoming kids brands, the TV-Book-TV session had all the panelists reverberating those sentiments, and for a moment one had to recheck, which session was going on.

It is kind of getting seamless. Whichever session you attend, whatever the topic, it finally is boiling down to One Brand, multiple delivery methods and time and place of the consumer's choice.

Besides the brand element however, each medium has its own inherent characteristics and the session TV-Book-TV discussed that.

The panelists included Cookie Jar senior vice president Fonda Snyder, Harper Collins MD Sally Gritten, National Geographic (Germany) managing director Dr. Ralf Birkelbach, Darguad and Dupuis chairman Claude De Saint Vincent and Scholastic Entertainment president Deborah Forte. The panel was moderated by The Bookseller deputy editor Joel Rickett.

An interesting topic of discussion was that of being able to identify the core of the property, whether Book, TV show or any other and adapting that to other mediums while retaining the core values.

Scholastic Entertainment president Deborah Forte remarked, "It is most important to identify what is sacred to the author and property and develop it thereon."

Quoting the example of Clifford which was a beloved kids book property in the US but unknown abroad, Deborah said, "There were a lot of naysayers from within the broadcast space when we initially planned Clifford. Today it is No.1 pre-school show in the US, five years running and has been sold in 65 countries across the world."

"We identified the essence of the character and the story and modified on it," she added.

Didn't that hamper Clifford's readers and fans to see their favorite character with a different treatment? Did the TV series hamper the sales? "The publishing program has grown from $7 million to $80 million after broadcast," replied Deborah.

Harper Collins Publishing managing director Sally Gritten emphasised on the need to understand where the author came from, and what the author stood for before adapting content into another medium.

"It is very important to understand the author. In the case of an illustrated book for animated TV series, it becomes an even more sensitive issue because the author/illustrator has been very involved in the smallest of details of the book," said Gritten.

Talking about the need for producers to become brand managers, Gritten said, "This is a rather hit or miss business. Far too many producers think that they have great content which ought to be published, but simply launching a TV series or getting a nod from a broadcaster s not enough for launching a publishing property."

"We need someone with brand management skills, someone who can get a lot of other strategic partners on board," she added.

With all content becoming a brand, authors are today treated as talent and are represented by agencies. The panelists emphasised that producers interested in optioning authors needed to stay abreast with the latest in the publishing world. "It is wise to develop relationships with publishers and editors and keep a track on which are the new fresh authors with a voice of their own," remarked Deborah.

"If we wait for a property to become a bestseller than it becomes very difficult as well as expensive to option an author for an independent production house," she added.

Did broadcast help sales for books? Yes of course, as long as the content was well handled.

From well known to best seller Darguad & Dupuis chairman Claude De Saint Vincent cited the example of Cedric which was a well known property in France.

"Cedric is a well known property in France and we had sold three million copies in 10 years. When we did a broadcast deal with France TV and increased some marketing and promotions, we cut nearly 100 licensing deals in three years and the sales of our animated albums doubled. Today Cedric airs in 52 countries," remarked Vincent.

With some wonderful informative animation playing in the background, Birkelbach spoke about how the company went about enhancing its brand awareness in Germany. "We do not look at it as magazine or TV, we look at the core values of the National Geographic brand and we created these characters keeping the German audience in mind," Another example of be global, go local.

Gritten was very excited about Harper Collins publishing Books for Disney's forthcoming feature The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. "The wonderful thing about working with Disney is that they have a consumer products division in nearly every country and we are working very closely with each of these units to exploit the maximum potential in terms of positioning, distribution, marketing and promotions," she said.

And for those who yet cannot digest Mobile TV, here's a bigger dose. Amongst other future trends is books on mobile, and Harper Collins recently got into an agreement with a technology provider. Gritten remarked, "Now we have a whole set of rights agreements with authors including rights for the mobile."

Commenting upon the need to have a clear development plan across all media and also on the clarity of rights issues, Cookie Jar's Fonda Snyder stated, "The rights situation is changing rapidly and it is very important to have a clear rights structure."

"Again to get the maximum out of a brand one has to plan content and release strategy for all the platforms in advance," she added.


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