The Toy Book chats with Dion Vlachos, executive vice president of licensing and retail at ViacomCBS, about taking Nickelodeon shows from the TV to the toy box.
The Toy Book: How do you work with your licensing partners to bring the magic of Nickelodeon shows from the screen to kids’ everyday lives?
Dion Vlachos: We work closely with each partner at every stage of development to capture the distinct play patterns, fan-favorite moments, and educational elements of each property and extend them into all product. We strive for authentic representation of our characters and their storylines, and it is important for us to capture that from the early designs and architecture of products.
TB: Why is it important to incorporate the educational components from each series into the toys they inspire?
DV: The educational components of each show provide a distinct point of differentiation for each property, as well as an authentic fingerprint for play patterns. It is critical that we develop our toy strategy first to align on the promise and architecture of each line with those distinct educational elements in mind.
TB: What can kids and families expect from Nickelodeon-licensed toys and games this year?
DV: We have more innovation and freshness in store for our licensed toys and games this year. The teams have been working closely with our partners to develop the next level for each of our favorite preschool toys and launch some brand-new items into the market for new shows as we grow our portfolio.
TB: Why is it important for ViacomCBS to work with a variety of toy and game companies to bring Nickelodeon properties into hardgoods?
DV: It is important for us to work with a variety of toy and game partners to foster innovation found in each company as well as provide distinct points of differentiation between product lines. We are committed to a diverse partner mix to better reflect our global consumers, including retail partners, creative agencies, and licensees.
TB: How do you ensure important elements or plotlines from the series are incorporated into the products?
DV: Our global consumer products creative team works very closely with content development teams at early stages to accurately capture the unique elements of each show as they begin development for toys. Characters and storylines are almost always in full development for many months (and sometimes years), and the content development teams share the critical vision for those characters and storylines by providing the direction for toy development even before the first episode takes shape in a rough reel. That collaboration is absolutely key to the success of the best representation or extension of a show into toys.
TB: How is ViacomCBS working to make sure internet sensations like Baby Shark and Ryan’s World stay relevant beyond their viral videos?
DV: We are strategically building digital hits into full omnichannel franchises to ensure longer-term relevancy. Examples of that strategy include the launch of the new Nickelodeon series Baby Shark’s Big Show! on the heels of the powerful YouTube phenomenon, and Ryan’s Mystery Playdate on the heels of his YouTube fandom. Both of these franchises also have additional short-form content, social content, and retail campaigns that round out their reach for their preschool fans.
TB: With the pandemic still affecting kids’ everyday lives, how is ViacomCBS working to spread joy and fun in 2021?
DV: We have focused energy this year on what we call “creative adaptivity” in the face of the pandemic. Kids and families are spending more time at home together, learning remotely, playing, and building. We have worked with our partners to develop innovative solutions to help kids celebrate this extra time at home, from new puzzles, games, crafts, and outdoor toys to enhanced learning aids, stationery items, hygiene tools, and desk accessories. The list keeps growing, and the innovation keeps building into even more exciting new product.
This article was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!