INTERVIEW: JULIAN ZAG
Total Licensing talked to Julian Zag, EVP, Global Operations and Head of Consumer Products, Zag
How has the last year been for ZAG?
The past two years have been incredible for ZAG! In fact, as of this year, we’ve hit over US$1 billion in retail sales for Miraculous™ – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir worldwide. Miraculous, created by ZAG and co-produced with ON kids & family (Mediawan Group), featuresLadybug, the only transforming, classic-style, super-hero girl on TV in animation and in merchandising in the western markets and ranked by IMDB amongst the Top 10 Best Animated Shows in the last 20 years.
Ahead of the recent 2021 rollout of Miraculous season four around the world, and our upcoming $100M+ animated feature release, we had been rapidly building our global consumer products teams. We’ve also established a gaming division in Tel Aviv; a new Global E-commerce division; and new offices in Latin America, Miami, and Mexico.
You have had a lot of exciting announcements on Miraculous over the past few months – can you highlight some of them for us?
Yes of course. Season four of Miraculous had its global premier on April 11, 2021, on TF1 in France with a 47.7% market share amongst kids 4–10 years old; in the U.S., the season four premiere on Disney Channel garnered incredible #1 ratings for girls 6–11 across all cable channels; and in Germany, it achieved a 46.4% share among all kids on Disney Channel. Next up is our US$100 million animated feature to debut in 2022; and season five of the series is already in production.
On the consumer products side of our business, since launching the Miraculous™ brand at retail, merchandise from over 300 licensing partners is currently available at major retailers and online in virtually every territory around the world across multiple categories. Here in the U.S., retail expansion for Miraculous is underway with the toy line from ZAG Lab and Playmates hitting brick and mortar stores this fall following the successful spring 2021 rollout when e-commerce platforms including Walmart, Target and Kohls sold out of products within days. Other products hitting retail shelves in the U.S. and Canada starting this year include publishing, costumes, accessories, confectionary and fruit snacks, crafts and activities, novelty toys and more!
Also recently, we have had enormous success with our new Miraculous role play game for the Roblox platform—the first game based on a TV series to be developed on Roblox. Miraculous RP: Quests of Ladybug & Cat Noir, which debuted on May 1, 2021, has to date has exceeded 200 million plays!
What are the licensing plans around the theatrical movie for 2022?
We have several important initiatives that we have not yet been able to announce for the launch of our highly anticipated feature, but I can tell you that we have a massive global promotion program with the most famous QSR company in the world, and signed cobranded partnerships with some more of the most influential companies across the globe for numerous consumer products categories. The movie is a great opportunity for us to further engage adult audiences with the brand.
What about YouTube and other social platforms – do you see this as the way of the future to engage with fans?
Social platforms are key to reach our fans directly. On YouTube, Miraculous attracts over 21.8 million subscribers across its nine official YouTube channels, currently available in eight languages. With a total 27.7 billion views (authorized and user-generated content) fans have collectively viewed more than 1.9 billion hours of content. At the end of last year, we launched Miraculous on TikTok to expand the brands established presence on social media. The new channel, which has exceeded over 15 billion views since launch, unveils never before seen footage to further entice our fans.
Let’s talk international – are there any particular markets you are seeing a lot of growth?
We are seeing growth for Miraculous around the globe! Most recently we signed global deals with Swatch’s Flik Flak, Epopia, and TCC for exciting consumer experiences with retail specific loyalty promotions. These new licensees join long-standing global partners Ferrero and PEZ.
And in Europe?
Miraculous has always been strong, but the brand is continuing to get even stronger. Some top new licensing partners include BIP for confections and chocolates, Ravensberger for games and puzzles, and Rubies for costumes and roleplay. This year, external research has shown that in Germany, Miraculous is the #1 favorite property for older girls; the #2 favorite property across all girls; and the #3 favorite license amongst all boys and girls ages 6 –9—scoring higher than brands such as Nike, Adidas and FC BayernMunich! (Source: Kids Global April 2021). And in France, the brand is the #1 favorite Cartoon/TVshow/Movie amongst boys and girls 4–14 (Kids Global April 2021). In Russia, Miraculous is 21.0 times more in demand than the average TV series—that’s stronger demand than 99% of all children’s titles in Russia. (Parrot Analytics, September 2021)
In Latin America, our pan regional partners include The Novelty Book Company, who launched a new board and activity book collection in Q2 2021 across Mexico, Central America, Chile, Peru, and Argentina; and Panini for stickers and magazines. In Brazil, we have an exclusive retail program with Lojas Riachuelo, the largest fast-fashion chain; and oBoticario, the world’s largest perfumery and cosmetics franchise with over 4,000 stores! And in Mexico, the new toyline from ZAG Lab and Playmates, distributed by Bandai Mexico, launched in fall 2020. By year-end, the line-wide sell through exceeded 85%, while the core fashion doll segment sell-through exceeded 90%. Strong growth for the core fashion doll line and role play is anticipated for 2022. We have multiple other partners across the region for apparel, backpacks, stationery and dinner ware, shampoo and soap, bicycles and scooters and more!
And, most recently, our consumer products program in Japan is becoming very successful, especially now that Miraculous has become number #1 on TV on Disney Channel Japan, which is incredible since miraculous is not a Manga property.
Have you found the past year or so difficult with much of physical retail being shut down, or do you rely also on e-commerce platforms for the licensing merchandise?
The past year hasn’t been difficult for us from a business perspective. We increased our business on e-commerce, which is why we established the new ZAG Global E-Commerce division which manages on a day-to-day basis all of our e-commerce efforts alongside our major partners licensees and retailers and reinforced and grew our team across the globe. We can see that in some countries our business increased exponentially, for example by 266% in Mexico over the previous year.
Can you tell us some more about Ghostforce, coming this fall?
Ghostforce™, which is an original gender-neutral series for kids 6 -10 years old, was just acquired by Disney Channels U.S. and premiered on October 4, 2021, on Disney XD. The new agreement is in addition to the existing deals with Disney Channel EMEA, Russia and the Middle East.
The series launched in most European countries with great out-of-home and digital visibility, and subsequently became the market leader in various kids target groups, with single airings reaching up to 40.9% share among all kids 3-14, and 51.2% among kids 6-9!
Equal parts comedy and action, Ghostforce follows three junior high school students who form a secret team to defend their city from the ghastly ghouls haunting it. As these ordinary kids become heroes, they must keep their own normal lives on track while battling paranormal perils and supernatural supervillains.
From a licensing and merchandising perspective, we already closed with several major partners, with toys coming from ZAG Lab and Playmates Toys, plus yet to be announced partners across publishing, apparel and costumes amongst others.