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We interviewed Javier Fanjul, Little Mates Product Manager (Silverline)

“Every day the consumer receives an increasingly bigger volume of information which makes it easier to spread the word about a property”

09/01/2011

Silverline and Warner Bros. are jointly managing the licensing rights to DC Comics’ new characters, created by the Silverline team.  Javier Fanjul, product manager for Little Mates, explains how the initiative was developed and what he anticipates are the prospects for the future.

-  Silverline is a well-consolidated company with a proven track record in the promotion sector and the management team has ample experience in the toy and gift areas.  Now they have launched a new property in close collaboration with Warner Bros.  What are the roots behind the development of this project and exactly what does it consist of?
-  With encouragement from Warner Bros. Spain, our goal was to create a new line designed for an early childhood audience based on classic superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.  Influenced by the Japanese market’s manga trend and the creative techniques of 3D modeling, a new and unique style evolved giving birth to Little Mates.  A Little Mate simply consists of combining set proportions with carefully chosen characterizations from the fantastic world of DC Comics.

-  After 75 years of history, DC Comics will have a new line of character products thanks to an agreement between Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Silverline.  How did this development play out as you worked toward the end product?
-  DC Comics hadn’t authorized any project from an external company over those 75 years.  Looking at the fact a first edition of Superman was auctioned for 1.5 million dollars shows us just how exacting DC Comics standards are.  
    Warner Bros. involvement and commitment have been crucial to the development.  First we began with neutral base models in order to evaluate size and volume.  In the world of childcare, educational toys and of course, comics, it is important to differentiate gender.  We discovered this elemental point during our first round of analysis and as a result, had to duplicate our testing from the original models.
    Once we had established our base, we began to develop the final characterization.  Batman for example, has evolved throughout his history, changing his wardrobe among other things depending on the particular film or television series.  We chose to base our model on his original appearance, the one we believe to be most recognizable for the general public.
    Once we finished our first ten characters, we sent a file to DC Comics so that they could evaluate the development of the project as a whole.  It was a fantastic feeling to receive congratulations from the company directors in response!  They only requested a few minor changes before approving our models.

-  What aspects give a special characterization to these new figures?  How will the licensing program develop and what is the target area they are being marketed to?
-  The freshness of the approach is what really sets us apart.  The harmony of the 3D modeling makes a very attractive design for our childhood audience but they are also apt for the teenage market when combined with personalized backgrounds and coveted by collectors thanks to the faithful detailed representation and their exclusivity.
    The licensing program will be defined by the new companies that join the project, which, in theory, is international and without any predetermined geographic limitations.  

-  Silverline will serve as the licensing agent for this property in the Spanish market.  How will this initiative be managed?
-  While the property right will be shared between Warner Bros and Silverline, we want to continue to be original.  Silverline is proposing a new business model to our partners, based on the sum of our shared experience and internationalization.  This way we can reach agreements with business in different markets where each partner truly understands the distribution within their sector.  They will be the ones who distribute, set sales policies and pricing. We should be able to prevent interference between different licensees, something which is currently a problem.
In order to manage this, Little Mates, has taken on two new colleagues, Sofia Noguera (Mendía Licensing), and Susana Martínez (Suma Licensing).  Both have developed excellent reputations within the licensing market.

-  What outcomes are expected from this project?  When will products from this property be on the market and what will be the channels of distribution?
-  Our Spanish launch is beginning now with a promotional campaign of ten collectible figures available through a presscampaign, with the primary goal of introducing and spreading the brand.  This will continue over the course of a year and our intention is to be able to situate the consumer product in the national market during the second quarter of 2011.  At the same time, we will begin to position ourselves in the international markets.

-  What are your opinions about the licensing business on a national and international level?  Where is the business growing?  What are (or will be) the next trends in promotional licensing?
-  The dynamism of this business is really exciting, both in terms of distribution channels as well as in content.  Every day the consumer receives an increasingly bigger volume of information which makes it easier to spread the word about a property. However, this also means that a product reaches maturity faster, creating a shorter overall lifespan.  The role of licensing advisors will continue to be necessary in order to defend the rights of the licensees.  It is important to remember that we don’t only commit to obligations in these long contracts.

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