Cartoon 2021 – Cartoon 360
Industry Report: Animation
Cyber Group Studios’ experts uncover 360-degree brand strategies at Cartoon 360
Olivier Lelardoux and Andreas Carlen delved into the studio’s moves to develop brand awareness, a process that now requires the implementation of a new exposure cycle
Day 1 of Lille’s Cartoon 360 (16-18 November 2021) was opened by a keynote speech entitled “From ‘Unreal’ to a Real 360 Brand Strategy for the Future”, hosted by French firm Cyber Group Studios’ senior vice-president studio and associate producer, Olivier Lelardoux, and technical director, Andreas Carlen. The talk was chaired by Christophe Erbes.
In the first part, Lelardoux and Carlen explained that Cyber Group Studios currently owns studios in Paris, Roubaix, Los Angeles and will soon open two more branches. The company, a producer and distributor of animated programmes for linear broadcasters, as well as for SVoD, AVoD and social media aiming to intercept international audiences, was founded in 2005 and has over 130 employees. The group owns a huge catalogue of 1,400 hours, or 2,800 episodes, available in 30 different languages. Cyber Group Studios’ mission is twofold: to tell great stories that resonate with kids (preferably aged from three to ten) and families worldwide, and to develop the stories’ universes into a metaverse experience.
Lelardoux and Carlen later mentioned Gigantosaurus as an example of a “true 360-degree brand”. A successful IP comprising two series, shorts, music videos and dedicated productions for social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, it has developed a successful licensing strategy selling products such as books, toys, T-shirts, video games and pyjamas.
According to the two experts, a brand is the “promise of an emotional experience that must be reinforced every time its target audience comes in contact with any facet of it”. Therefore, to develop brand awareness, it is important to proceed through “progressive exposure of branded products acting as media, carrying the brand attributes”, amplified by advertising and promotional campaigns. The two speakers argued that current times, however, are tending to disrupt the usual “well-defined exposure cycle” adopted for years by children’s animation brands.
There are multiple factors posing a challenge to such a paradigm. The main one is perhaps the reduction of children’s media consumption on traditional media. This process of fragmentation is reducing the core target markets’ exposure and making the launch of ancillary business difficult, in a context wherein the exposure on new platforms is still unable to compensate for the weakened presence of traditional media. In addition, physical retailers are facing competition from e-commerce outlets, who may find children’s IPs too risky to invest in.
To overcome these challenges, Lelardoux and Carlen suggest seeking exposure “whenever and wherever children watch content today” and adopting a holistic brand-development strategy, “making up for the exposure holes to create a constantly growing awareness curve”. To do this, the brand-development budget should be defined by the programme owner on top of the investment in producing it. Moreover, it took three years to exploit the 360-degree potential of the Gigantosaurus brand, so it is essential to consider the fact that every project has its own timeline in order to achieve such a goal.
Luckily enough, the metaverse and digital technologies are the right placesfor developing new exposure opportunities. For example, the studio partnered with Epic Games to create two dedicated islands in Fortnite where users can meet the characters, play some games and watch some exclusive episodes. They also touched upon the Gigantosaurus fan club, not made up of human fans, but rather other dinosaurs: “We’ve created specific characters and storytelling. Here, they talk to the camera, while in the show, they’re the heroes living their own journeys. In the club, they interact with the audience and adopt a playful approach. Because of this ‘proximity’ with the audience, we wanted [to create] something more naturalistic in terms of the animation, movements and rendering. That’s why we chose to use motion capture.”
Later, Carlen explained how they developed a comprehensive 360-degree strategy and vision for a multimedia and multi-ancillary product pipeline to deliver global brands for children and family. They identified a video-game engine, Unreal, and implemented it for linear production by building an open, real-time asset production platform. Through this Unreal-native pipeline, assets can deliver singular content to multiple 360-degree exploitations in parallel, for a global 360-degree marketplace. In other words, the studio has built what Carlen defined as a “metaverse brand-development enabler”.
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