25 Oct 2017

Eight musings from MIPCOM 2017, a Jetpack perspective by Dom Gardiner

For me, MIPCOM emerged some distinct questions, observations and tips for survival. Some are open ended without definitive answers, but I would welcome your thoughts on any, or all, of my ‘musings’ and please go ahead and share yours.

Copycat culture

Is there such a thing as a unique series or has it all been done before? I notice every great idea is inspired by one that went previously but didn’t cut the mustard for whatever reason. How serious is the danger of releasing our development too early into the market, only for us to inspire others to release very similar (and perhaps more refined and honed!) pitches 6 month later?

 

This feels a bit too international

How important is the provenance of a good idea? Do we feel better if the show is made in the USA or France or China? How do our preconceptions cloud our decision making? Perhaps it’s just a personal preference or perhaps buyers have experiences, both good and bad, of whether a show from a country will travel. Once an idea has been exported to more than 200 countries and localised, like Peppa Pig for instance, does anyone remember or even care that it was dreamt up and created by three British guys?

 

Comfortable shoes

To trainer or not to trainer that is the question?! The decision depends on your fashion sense or perhaps the number of letters before your job title. Whichever route you take always go for comfort, even at the cost of style. The perfect shoe looks like a shoe, has the performance of a trainer and the comfort of an old pair of slippers. Always allow for at least one shoe change per day as your feet will thank you for it. And don’t forget waterproof soles. Don’t even think about anything else.

 

Here’s another killer idea!

Despite turning up with six of the best ideas in the history of TV. For some reason (gallons of rose usually) at one stage or another we all fall into the trap of creative brainstorming. Call it what you will - noodling, throwing shit against a wall etc, it is guaranteed that at 2am whatever sounds like the killer idea will have evaporated from everyone’s minds by morning for good reason (!).

 

High-school-like industry

Someone said to me that coming into the kids business was a bit like going back to high school. Everyone seems to know everyone else and their business and has an opinion of everyone (good and bad!). Knowing who is connected to whom and why is very important information and can save you time. A top tip if you are entering the kids biz is to make friends with a few well-connected people and don’t be afraid to ask around and check on a company’s reputation, as well as their credits, before you decide to partner up.

 

What do we call them? Properties vs shows vs brands

What are we selling these days and what do we even call it? Is it a TV programme? A brand? Intellectual property? A toy based on a T-shirt? Or a format based on a video game? Most likely it is one or more of the above or a combination of others not listed. Those who we pitch to are heavily influenced by their industry. Increasingly so, we are working with guys who come from the gaming industry or the app business or publishing or a toyco or a state broadcaster. Expectations of a pitch will differ depending on their background, so try to cater for all tastes, but don’t lose focus on your core characters and story. Cross collaboration between industries in the kids business is happening in the same way that Disney, Turner and Nick run their divisions. So indie businesses must find synergies and partnerships with other likeminded businesses who work in complementary sectors.

 

The china crisis – are you “in China” yet?

This was the number one question during the market. If so, how did you get there and who helped you? How to get your business moving in China continues to be a hot topic. Do you go direct to the platforms or hire a well-connected agent? Or do you hire your own guys based in China or perhaps you need a merchandising company first and then a studio partner second or maybe your local government will send you on a trade mission etc? The options are endless. From what I gather, all the above can work. Only time will tell which of them proves to be the most effective long term and who the best partner is. Whatever strategic direction you take, the feverish excitement about China, and the value of deals, continues to rise year on year and it sends out one clear message…. get on the boat / bus / plane and get out there asap! Do meetings, shake hands, exchange cards and pitch in person. It might be a long road, so the sooner you take the first step the better.

 

The evil follow-up

Not strictly a market musing, the ‘follow up’ is none-the-less one of the most important steps to success and the evil step brother to the MIP meeting. Each follow up email needs to be painstakingly accurate with detailed information to be cross referenced against your scribbled notes where you faintly recall making deal promises over drinks on the Marriott terrace. Every distributer’s nightmare is the offer of a Slovenian dub you gifted to a local SVOD platform, which turns out in fact to be in Slovakian subtitles, while the six-month holdback was actually six years. Another deal going backwards. So now is your chance to put it back together in writing in the cold, sober light of day. Possibly you can sell them another series that you do have the rights and materials for, if only you can a find a link to an actual episode that bloody works. Remember that provided you can craft each hilarious / charming / personal / accurate / relevant ‘follow up’ in no more than 30 minutes and aim to send it to the VIP up the food chain before the next market, you are doing just about ok. Keep calm and follow up!


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