Sesame Street has a rich and longstanding history here in Australia and New Zealand, dating back to 1974 when it first launched in our region. Gisela Abrams has been an important conduit for the brand for much of this time. She has passionately steered the brand through many changing market conditions and it can be argued that it is stronger now than at any time in the past. The new regional HeadStart deal will allow Sesame Workshop the flexibility to develop fun and engaging product with an innovative and passionate team, who can’t wait to bring fun and excitement to the market. We had the chance to speak with both Gisela Abrams, VP International Media Business for Sesame Workshop and Andrew Hendy, Director at HeadStart International about their vision for the brand in the region.
QUESTIONS TO GISELA ABRAMS
You have a longstanding connection with the Australian market, what will this new regional deal mean for Sesame Workshop in terms of innovation and engagement with the consumer?
We are thrilled to team up with HeadStart. Their expertise in retail execution, product development, and marketing is unparalleled. And their ability to be nimble in the region will allow us to deliver the best Sesame Street experience to children and their families.
The intrinsic values of Sesame Street have stood the test of time, even with the proliferation of new brands hitting the market each year. Sesame Street feels as though it is as strong as it has ever been?
Sesame Street is a classic and evergreen brand, but we wouldn’t be where we are without being continuously innovative. Each year, we re-calibrate the show to address kids’ evolving needs. This model is also reflected in the consumer products that are created. We research market trends and identify the best licensees – sometimes they’re well-known, sometimes they’re up and coming – to deliver products that are true to our brand and that engage kids the only way Sesame can. This past year we’ve worked with Apple to deliver Sesame Street content, PUMA to encourage physical activity, and Peter Alexander to make bedtime more fun.
How deep will you go with HeadStart in terms of development? Will you stay focused on learning and education with a strong element of fun?
Sesame Workshop’s mission is to help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. That is in our DNA and in everything we produce. We work closely with our licensees to ensure our products deliver the perfect combination of laughter, learning, and play.
Where do you see your priorities over the next 12 months?
First, we are so excited that Elmo is making a trip to Australia to meet all his wonderful fans! This has been an incredible few months and Elmo is sharing in all the excitement. Later this year, consumers will see a deep and rich new line of Sesame Street toys with HeadStart. Our products; toys as well as other categories, feature a range of favorite Sesame Street characters making playtime an adventure every time. We’ll be leveraging our work with HeadStart and other partnerships in Australia & New Zealand to create more localised content. Stay tuned for more Sesame Street announcements later this year.
What is the three year plan for the Sesame Street brand?
In 2019, we’ll be celebrating Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary. We’re already making plans with new products and experiences that will showcase the impact we’ve made in children’s media and we’re setting a trailblazing path, full of fun and fur, for the future.
QUESTIONS TO ANDREW HENDY
Andrew, this is another major accomplishment for HeadStart. The market is seriously competitive, you must be proud of your appointment?
HeadStart was built on acquiring evergreen brands that we can invest in and nurture into long-term pillars of our business. There is no greater example of an evergreen brand than Sesame Street, with an almost 50 year heritage. I hope that Sesame Street will remain a major part of our business for decades to come and nothing could make me happier than a partnership like that.
HeadStart have become known as innovators and shroud marketers, can you tell us a little bit about your launch program for Sesame Street and what products you will bring to market first?
Our launch range for the new and improved Sesame Street toys is a combination of some of the most successful Sesame Street play patterns such as Tickle Me Elmo, combined with some never before seen Sesame Street toys such as Learn to Swim Elmo which will take the brand to another level.
We understand that you will focus heavily on product development during this current arrangement; will you look to develop bespoke ranges for individual retailers?
100% of the Sesame Street toys we launch with will be developed by the amazingly creative toy designers in our Melbourne head office. I would love to develop bespoke ranges for individual retailers but to be honest everything we have developed for the initial launch is in such high demand that there is no room for exclusive ranges.
Sesame provides the opportunity for great theatre via the profile of characters such as Cookie Monster and Elmo; will your plan include leveraging these appearances?
We are so excited and fortunate that Elmo himself is coming all the way to Australia. The PR that will be generated by his appearance will be second to none.
Can you provide us with a general understanding of what the range will look like for this region over the coming 12-months?
We will have a major focus of plush toys with specific feature plush items that we know are always successful and we can heavily promote. Furthermore we will be introducing some high function plastic toys that perfectly suit the preschool market and we expect to take Sesame toys to another level. Most of our products will be below $50 retail.
Thank you both for your time, it looks like Sesame Street is set to break more records in this region. The collaboration between Sesame Workshop, HeadStart and Haven Global will deliver award-winning activations.