One of the things that has really stood out in children’s shows over the last ten years is the industry’s search for the elusive next Dora, the next Spongebob. I’ve mentioned this here before. For me, well, neither Dora nor Spongebob were the next anything. That’s a big part of what made them special.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a really interesting discussion with some people more in the licensing end of things. They were telling me about how buyers choose products, how they end up on the shelves and the boy/girl rules that go with all that – buyers who, by all accounts, file shows and characters into very simple categories that mean they will either work or not work in the marketplace. There are years of market research so it’s a pretty exact science. All very interesting stuff and reminiscent of discussions I had with the distributors of Fluffy Gardens.
In this conversation, Peppa Pig came up as an exception.
It’s a show that, apparently, licensees would not have bought. This is something I’ve heard before too. They wouldn’t have seen the success coming. Girl main character, even coloured pink (well, she is a pig) and it broke out well beyond the limited perception of what a girl’s property is. It was a surprise. At least, for the licensing experts. And now it’s a massive success.
And I couldn’t help but think, yet again, of the failed search for the next Dora.
So is it really that Peppa Pig is an exception? An anomaly? A mistake in the market?
Or is it more likely that the show is excellent, funny, speaks to children in a way they totally understand regardless of gender and children want more of that, be it in toy form, book form or whatever? Is it more likely that the science is flawed?
I honestly don’t know. Being perfectly truthful, the licensing end of things is not somewhere I go. So I’m no expert. I’d have to bow to the experience of those in that area.
But here’s something I think is relevant to all areas of business, creativity, even just everyday life:
There are exceptions to rules. But when following the rules leads to few results of value and the big successes seem to be the exceptions, I’d guess it’s more likely just that the rules are wrong. ‘Try, try again’ only works if you’re doing it right.
How, as a leading figure in a studio, do you avoid trying to find “the next” one of your own shows? Whether for financial or artistic reasons it must be so hard to avoid revisiting the past within a studio itself.
Good question, Andy. I could do a whole post on that (and maybe I will!). When you’ve made something that even just does okay, but definitely when something does well, it sort of puts you in a difficult position for your next project. People now have an expectation of what you do. Offer something too different and it can put people off. Too similar and, well, that’s just the same as your last project. That difficult second album!
I like to learn from previous projects. Build on them. But, really, once something is done it’s done and I like to move on and create something that can completely stand on its own. It can be tempting to rework ideas that have done well but we like variety! Going off in a whole other direction is probably a bigger temptation.