ANNECY, France — The time involved in building a brand, traditional relationship with broadcasters’ disruption by VOD platforms, and a need to implement marketing strategies at an early stage of production were some of the pivotal points discussed at Mifa panel “Building Brands: The Road to Success,” an event organized by Creative Europe Media Program as a European Film Forum (EFF), in partnership with Annecy Festival’s Mifa Market.
On May 3, the European Commission adopted a new proposal for the next Media Program which will run 2021-27. E.U. programs for all different sectors are set up in seven-year terms. At the Annecy event, deputy head of unit of audiovisual industry and media support programs Martin Dawson said that the proposal implies “a significant strengthening of the Creative Europe Media Program with new priorities, and with additional funding.”
The amount for financing, culture and creative sectors that the European Commission proposes is set at €1.8 billion ($2.1 billion). That’s a 50% increase from the last budget ($1.4 billion). For the audiovisual part— animation included— the amount rises from $930 million to $1.4 billion.
“We will continue to support the development, distribution and promotion of European films and TV programs (including animation of course), but we also want do new things. We want to innovate, in particular in promotion and branding, because Europe is brilliant at producing. Its artistic quality is recognized worldwide, but in terms of visibility, there we can improve,” Dawson said at the presentation.
The event was moderated by Christophe Erbes, a specialist in children’s media, and consultant at Bei Kids (C)ntent. Panelists included Cyber Group Studios CEO Pierre Sissmann, Normaal head of business development and international sales Marc Dhrami, De Agostini head of acquisitions and property development Brenda Maffuchi, Artichoke producer Juraj Krasnohorsky and Edward Galton, Cake Entertainment COO & managing director.
Underlining the importance of assistance that producers have received so far and building on Dawson’s first words, Sissmann said: “What we’re seeing today, and what you will see in the future, is the big Netflix, Apple, and Amazon productions coming in, and with a lot of strength. What we need from the different governments and from Creative Europe Media Program, is an umbrella that is going to help us in marketing our properties.”
Sissmann also highlighted the patience and perseverance that handling an IP requires. In this vein, and considering the 360º approach that most of projects take, Maffuchi from De Agostini Group Perspective, said: “It’s not only the economic investment we can do, but there is also a huge investment we are doing daily in communication, marketing, strategy and programming. So it’s not just having us as an economic partner, it’s having us as a key partner to go through the complete IP, even working very close to the licensing and toymakers.”
A new know-how is also required for the proposed 360º scenario: “When you are a small producer, first of all, once you achieve financing for your show, you’re really exhausted. When you’ve got a property you have to define very precisely the values you want to communicate with it, because not all the properties are valid for toys or entertainment, and what is the best tool to use. And you need experts for that,” Dhrami said.
Dhrami also addressed limited relationships with broadcasters: “All the properties are values, and there are tools around these values that we can use to disseminate them. I mean we’re B2B, our client is the broadcaster. All around Europe, broadcasters’ budgets for promotion aren’t getting better.”
Atrichoke founder Krasnohorsky drew attention to the difficulties that the sector has suffered in Central and Eastern Europe— which has a solid animation tradition— in reaching international audiences. He then suggested the possibility of supporting reboots of programs which have seen domestic success. He also called for support for training programs.
Adding a potential element of controversy to the debate, and pleading “don’t shoot me for this,” Galton observed that he sensed from some producers that they almost frowned on creating con tent with licensing and merchandising potential. “You only look at the content as being for a specific platform, that tells a certain story. If it migrated outside of that space it was regarded as dirty goods.”
Erbes asked if what Gaulton meant is that Creative Media Europe Program had shown support towards different, artistic products, rather than others which could have a higher commercial potential. “Yes”, Galton answered. “And you shouldn’t feel ashamed about that.”
Another point stressed was the crucial importance of attending markets such as Cartoon Forum and Mifa in order to find the right partners at the right time. Events are a must-attend for any producer.
“We will definitely think about [all these ideas] when we get back to Brussels,” Dawson said in his closing remarks.
The Creative Europe Media Program has taken a stand at Mifa this year in order to strengthen industry ties. The European Commission has been supporting animation since the launch of the Media Program in 1991. Some of the animated features it’s backed include the Oscar-nominated “Ernest & Celestine” and “Loving Vincent,” as well as “Niko and the Way to the Stars.”