I recently had the opportunity to interview Elie Dekel,
the President of Saban Brands. I wanted
to talk with Elie for two major reasons:
Saban’s importance to the toy industry in
creating and nurturing great, character driven, and child oriented intellectual
property. Their stable currently
consists of Power Rangers, Paul Frank, Vortexx, Julius Jr., Popples, Digimon
Fusion, Zui.com and The Playforge.
Saban’s cutting edge use of transmedia
storytelling, in other words, using a multitude of platforms from gaming to
television to toys, to market its products and tell their stories.
My hope was that Elie’s perspective would provide some
unique insights on the traditional toy industry. He did not disappoint.
How do we reduce time to market?
I asked Elie to tell me how traditional toys fit into
Saban’s planning; not from a product standpoint but from one of logistics. Elie confirmed that toys are a big part of
their multi-platform approach to entertainment and play. He did note, however, that digital
entertainment and gaming have a far shorter creative cycle (6 to 12 months)
than do traditional toys (12 to 24 months).
This gap creates a challenge as by the time a toy comes
to market, the digital elements and the children they reach may well have moved
on either to another story development or to a new property. I asked Elie what needs to happen and he said
that Saban would like to see the toy industry shorten its product cycle. When I asked him the desired time line, he
responded that the aforesaid 6 to 12 months was optimal. I came away from our conversation believing
that this was a critical question and one I intend to explore: Where and how can 6 to 12 months be cut out
of time to market?
How do we speak to today’s children?
Elie surprised me with a question of his own: “How do we as providers play with children
who walk around with a screen in their pocket?” How do we connect with children who can
access play and entertainment on demand?
How does the storytelling industry deal with these children as they morph
into 18-34 year olds who expect ever richer, deeper and broader brand
Elie responded to his own question by stating that his
company, Saban Brands is up to the challenge.
He cited the revival of Power Rangers as an example. He told me that their reboot strategy
involved making sure that it became an evergreen brand. That meant to Saban that it had to be more
than “just” a great
show. They knew that
to really connect with today’s kids they had to invest heavily (millions of
dollars annually) in off-channel marketing
(short features in movie theatres, television commercials for the show, a
robust website, social networking and even participate in the Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade).
In part 2, we will hear what Elie has to say about re- launching Power Rangers a generation after it all began and fills us in on Vortexx.