ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.7 - OCTOBER 2000
Toy Stories: Merchandising Success Without TV or Movie Exposure
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Martha Montoya, creator of Los Kitos. © Los Kitos Entertainment LLC.
All this is without any TV or movie exposure. Meanwhile, the Krislin Company has acquired animation rights to Los Kitos. At last report, they hoped to bring an animated series to the television market in the year 2000. While shopping the property for broadcast, Krislin is also developing straight-to-video releases.
Not quite a "rags to riches" story -- yet. But that's the whole point.
"Don't wait for miracles," advises Montoya. "Build a business. Pay the bills. Build a reputation. They'll eventually come to you."
Even easier to get into than print is the Internet. However, most observers agree with Lina Maini, president and chief operating officer of Mainiac Productions and CEO of Howlin Entertainment:
Casper's Haunted Christmas creators, Harvey Entertainment, are striking into new territory by acquiring Walter Miller's Home Page. © Harvey Entertainment.
"The Net is more a marketing tool now than its own form of media. It's easy to copy Internet content, and electronic rights is still a new field. That combination makes it hard to protect proprietary material. I view the Internet as adding exposure, but I wouldn't launch there."
However, there's always the exception that proves the rule. In what may be a first, Harvey Entertainment, of Casper, the Friendly Ghost fame, has licensed the rights to "Walter Miller's Home Page" and is shopping it as a primetime animated TV series. Prior to being licensed by Harvey, "Walter Miller's Home Page" had a presence only on the Internet, where it is one of the longest-running and worst-spelled comedy sites, with a fanatical cult following.
"The success on the Website gives us a definite competitive advantage when pitching the show," says Rick Mischel, president of Harvey.
Julie Aigner-Clark, CEO and founder of Baby Einstein, with her two girls. Photo © 2000 The Baby Einstein Company LLC. All Rights Reserved.
The Net provided a safe haven for "Walter Miller's Home Page" until it achieved a following that propelled it toward the big time. Similarly, Montoya has built a following in a niche that the big players largely ignored, and where her Latino roots gave her special insight. (Montoya came to the U.S. from Bogota, Columbia, at age 25.)
Niche marketing is a time-honored strategy that comes in a thousand flavors. Julie Aigner-Clark, for instance, got her special insight from motherhood. Aigner-Clark's first success in media was Baby Einstein, a video of music and nursery rhymes in English, German, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and French. The theory, backed by academic research, is that exposing infants to foreign languages makes it easier for them to learn languages later in life. There's no indication that they learn specific words, much less syntax. More likely, hearing the phonemes stimulates the brain to be able to process those phonemes. Visuals, including brightly colored objects and toys, as well as black and white patterns, keep the infant focused on the video.
Just a few of the many colorful and exciting products from Baby Einstein. © 2000 The Baby Einstein Company LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Aigner-Clark ran across the research that inspired Baby Einstein in 1994, when she was pregnant with her first daughter, Aspen. During 1996, using a borrowed Betacam, she shot the video in her basement. She edited it on a home computer using Adobe Premiere.
The Baby Einstein video was completed in early 1997. Initially, Aigner-Clark sold the video through specialty retail outlets, such as Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Imaginarium, Noodle Kidoodle, Store of Knowledge, The Right Start and Zany Brainy. She also used Internet sites like Amazon.com.
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