THE BIG INTERVIEW: Nicole Blake, EVP, Marketing & Consumer Products, Classic Media
We talk Where's Wally?, pre-school and her new global role.
“The positive change, as compared to last year at this time, is palpable. The mood is as optimistic as I’ve seen in some time,” admits Nicole Blake, fresh from her promotion to EVP at Classic Media.
Blake, having been based at the firm’s US offices for three years, witnessed the arrival of the then Entertainment Rights portfolio and staff last year. And following the announcement of Andrew Kerr’s departure last week, she is set to bring the UK and rest of the world into her remit from the end of June.
“I’m thrilled to be taking on an expanded global role within the company,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed working with Andrew and will obviously be sad to see him move on, but am very much looking forward to assuming my new responsibilities at an incredibly exciting – and busy – time for Classic Media.”
She’s not wrong about it being a busy time. In the past 12 months, Classic has launched two new pre-school series – Tinga Tinga Tales and Guess with Jess – both of which are out-performing expectations. Both debuted in the UK on Cbeebies and are currently rolling out to key territories worldwide (Jess has just launched in Canada on Treehouse and TTT is due to hit Playhouse Disney in 2011). The merchandising programmes will begin in the UK from this summer, with a number of major partners already on board for both shows. Tinga Tinga Tales is anchored by Bandai as the master toy partner and Penguin as the master publisher, while Guess with Jess has the backing of Fisher-Price and Egmont.
On top of the new shows, Blake also says that classic property Where’s Wally? (or Where’s Waldo? in the US) had a landmark year in 2009.
“The franchise hit 50 million + books sold worldwide, debuted its first app for iPhone – which has sold over one million units – and the first mobile game was named a ‘top ten game for summer’ by Verizon,” she states. “Building on that momentum, new video and mobile games will have worldwide releases this year and we will be rolling out consumer products to new territories. Additionally, this summer in North America, more than nine million Where’s Waldo? themed premiums will be featured in a national QSR promotion.”
A major publishing push was also recently revealed for the property.
As well as its pre-school shows and Where’s Wally?, visitors to Classic’s booth at Licensing International will also be given an update on the firm’s seasonal brands.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2010, with a new design look and marquee promotional partners; while Halloween ambassador Casper the Friendly Ghost, Peter Cottontail (for Easter) and Hot Stuff (for Valentine’s Day) will also be showcased.
As mentioned at the top of the interview, Blake says the mood in the business is the most optimistic for some time, while she’s also seeing a real demand for long-term franchises that work across multiple platforms. “That said, this is balanced by the fickleness of consumers wanting what they want, when they want it and in our ‘on demand’ society, consumers expect to get it. This dichotomy plays into Classic Media’s strengths in that we have some of the most successful and longest running franchises of all time. And, with our company structure as a ‘mini studio’, we remain nimble and well positioned to exploit opportunities.”
Blake has very clear ideas of what she would like to have achieved by the end of the year – she just wants Classic to continue delivering, both in terms of its older and newer properties.
“On reinventing the classics of yesterday, look for Classic Media to continue its pipeline by refreshing franchises with new TV shows, movies or video games.
On creating the classics of tomorrow, our new pre-school brands are out-performing expectations and we will be carefully managing their global roll out.”
Classic Media can be found on stand 5431 at Licensing International Expo, which runs from June 8th to 10th at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center, Las Vegas.