Penguin Random House Children’s appoints David Sprei as Commercial Director for Penguin Ventures

David Sprei will be joining Penguin Random House Children’s as Commercial Director for Penguin Ventures on 18 October. He will report to Francesca Dow, MD for Penguin Random House Children’s.

In this newly created role David will lead the Penguin Ventures business to further growth, working in close partnership with Susan Bolsover, Global Licensing and Consumer Products Director, and the Penguin Ventures team. Susan Bolsover will report to David.

David joins from his previous role as Director International Business Development ViacomCBS Consumer Products, focusing on new innovative & non-traditional partnerships across the portfolio. Prior to this David has held commercial and partnership roles at Viacom Velocity (MTV Europe), Instrumental and TBWA Stream, London.

Penguin Ventures is a separate business within Penguin Random House Children’s, which manages and exploits a portfolio of literary brands and characters, most notably Peter Rabbit, The Snowman and Spot, focusing on licensing and consumer products, retail activations, theatrical, exhibitions and commercial partnership strategies. In the UK Penguin Ventures’ most recent successes include a multi-year partnership with Cadburys as well as a global collection with Cath Kidston, both for Classic Peter Rabbit. The team also created a fashion and digital collaboration with Barbour for The Snowman, expanding upon Raymond Briggs’ timeless story through an innovative ad campaign, and were responsible for the UK, Australian and Japanese licensing programme for global box office smash hit movies Peter Rabbit and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.


Toy and licensing powerhouse Jazwares makes top-level promotions and names Laura Zebersky new president

The global toys and licensing powerhouse, Jazwares, has promoted Laura Zebersky to the position of president. The 15-year veteran of the toy industry most recently held the title of chief commercial officer, overseeing its global licensing, marketing, and sales efforts.

Judd Zebersky will remain as chief executive officer and the pair will continue to drive forward the success of the company together.

Laura Zebersky helped catapult Jazwares’ growth by driving global licensing, marketing, retail expansion and exponential sales. In 2017, she was a recipient of the prestigious Women In Toys Wonder Women Award, honouring top female executives, thought leaders, entrepreneurs and other change makers within the toy, licensing, and entertainment industries.

Judd Zebersky, CEO, Jazwares, said: “Laura is the most amazing business and life partner anyone could ask for. Her understanding of the toy industry and business savvy is unmatched. Partnering with Laura, now as president, the future success and possibilities for Jazwares are boundless.”

Jazwares has also announced the promotion of several management executives across the company.

Kelly Deen has been promoted to senior vice president of marketing and is credited for transforming the marketing and campaign strategy within the company. Deen joined Jazwares in 2019, bringing her experience and passion for the toy and entertainment category, and has led the team to drive tremendous results despite the challenges of the past year.

Previously, Deen led marketing and intelligence at tech startup, Magic Leap, and consumer marketing at Cartoon Network.

Additionally, Gerhard Runken has been promoted to senior vice president of brand for Jazwares’ boy brands and Kellytoy brands, including Squishmallows, Micro Machines, and Pokémon, among others.

Runken was previously the vice president of marketing and brand at Wicked Cool Toys prior to the acquisition in October 2019.

As Jazwares celebrates continued growth in Europe, Jonny Taylor has been promoted to senior vice president, Europe. Previously the managing director, UK and Nordics, Taylor established the UK office in 2012 and has managed the German office since February 2020.

In his new role, Taylor will continue to support development in these markets, while also focusing on growth in other key territories.

Golden Bear appoints Tracy Griffiths as head of brands and licensing amid brace of new recruits

The Telford-based toy maker, Golden Bear has bolstered its brand and licensing division with the appointment of Tracy Griffiths who takes on the role of division head. In her new position, Griffiths will lead a team of four as the British company continues on its growth strategy in the licensing space.

Griffiths’ appointment is one of a swathe of new recruits to the Golden Bear team as it sets out its plans to drive further growth over the coming years, and expanding on its already 50-strong team.

Becs Henchey joins the company as senior creative development manager, heading up a team of seven, with responsibility for overseeing the creative process across both licensed and non-licensed ranges. Meanwhile, Saskia Hamilton becomes the new international sales coordinator.

“It’s a real coup for Golden Bear to attract talent of the likes of Becs, Tracy and Saskia,” said Managing Director Barry Hughes. “Becs is re-joining the company after a period of 12 years and we look forward to her utilising the skills and experience she has developed to really drive the creative team to new heights.

“Tracy, who is hugely well known and respected within the licensing community, has been working for us as a consultant for three years and it is a pleasure to welcome her on board as a permanent member of the Golden Bear team to head up both brand and licensing within the business.

“Our continued growth in international markets means we are delighted to see Saskia join the team to help drive global sales to the next level. It’s an exciting time for Golden Bear and our recruits are going to help us immensely with the next stage of our expansion plans.

“We have shown how strong and robust the business is despite all the challenges that Covid has brought about this year and we have been thrilled with the way that our staff have responded and how our products continue to resonate with customers.  2021 is already shaping up to be another successful year for the company.”

The Hachette Children’s Group lands publishing rights for the hit pre-school series Tinpo

The Point. 1888 has partnered with one of the UK’s leading children’s publishers, the Hachette Children’s Group, to adapt the CGI animated television series Tinpo into a wide range of book and activity formats.

The agreement will see the launch of a new range of picture books, annuals, story books, activity books, and novelty books featuring the characters and stories from the popular children’s series.

Since launching in February 2019 via a prime slot on the CBeebies television channel, Tinpo has become a favourite among its pre-school audience in the UK. Combining themes of construction and unconventional problem solving, the main character Tinpo and his team resolve problems in their unique world in ways that are never practical, but always fun.

In addition to the UK, the show just launched last week in Japan on TV Tokyo and last month in Latin America on Nick Jr./Noggin with more broadcaster announcements coming shortly.

The Hachette Children’s Group was chosen as the property’s publishing partner for its record of success in creating award-winning and bestselling books for children of all ages and interests. Its licensed publishing includes Rainbow Magic, Beast Quest and Pokémon.

Bethan Garton, retail and brand director at The Point.1888, said: “This is a wonderful start to what will be a successful licensing programme for Tinpo and its owner, Cloudco Entertainment. Publishing is a key pillar within the programme, allowing the brand to reach an already loyal audience with some crucial products in a popular category.

“Here at The Point.1888, we love working with the Hachette Children’s Group and are delighted to be adding Tinpo to its portfolio of impressive brands.”

Heather Crossley, Pat-a-Cake and Licensing Publisher at the Hachette Children’s Group, commented: “We’re delighted to be constructing a tailored publishing programme that introduces the “Tintastic” world of STEAM to pre-schoolers. Building on the themes of problem-solving, creativity and teamwork, we will combine tried-and-tested formats with innovative ideas to create books that children will come back to time and again.”

Roubina Tchoboian, vice-president of international licensing at Cloudco Entertainment, added: “We have long admired the products that Hachette Children’s Group creates and look forward to seeing the key themes of Tinpo brought to life through what we’re confident will be a successful range of books.”


Top Drawer confirms virtual event for 2020 as UK gov plans to ease restrictions in October

The UK lifestyle trade show, Top Drawer – a destination for brands across home, gift, craft, fashion, and greetings – as confirmed that this year’s event will be held virtually, a step taken in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The move follows the UK government’s announcement that it will not be easing restrictions on exhibitoins in England until October 1st this year. Clarion Events has now confirmed that the A/W20 edition of Top Drawer will be held virtually.

Show director, Alejandra Campos, said: “While we had hoped we could deliver an event for the community, safely and successfully, we have also been busy planning for such an eventuality. We are now ready to launch Top Drawer virtual, a unique digital alternative that is sure to inspire, engage and connect our community of brands and buyers.

“The support of our exhibitors and visitors over the last few weeks has been incredible, and we are pleased we can provide them with the opportunity to network, forge new business and access the shared learning that they always turn to Top Drawer for.”

Top Drawer’s new digital platform will offer the show’s community new opportunities to network and expand trade. The September programme will provide both UK-based and international buyers easy access to exciting product launches, expert advice, inspiring case studies, next season trends, and much more.

Additional information about the virtual edition of the show will be released in coming weeks.


Nickelodeon ramps up Rainbow Rangers with increased broadcast of the pre-school hit

Fans of Rainbow Rangers rejoice – Nickelodeon has upped the ante and increased the broadcast of the popular Genius Brands International original pre-school series to 26 airings per week.

Nick Jr. now airs Rainbow Rangers Monday to Friday with four airings per day, and six airings on the weekends.

The animated action-adventure series premiered on Nick Jr. in November 2018 with five airings per week and, according to the firm, has consistently achieved high ratings with its target demo of Girls aged two to five. The additional airings of Rainbow Rangers, which represents a five-fold increase (400+ per cent), are complimented by content available via video on demand platforms and the brand’s robust YouTube channel.

“From the beginning, we knew we had a special and unique new series for pre-schoolers that delivers values-based entertainment for children around the world. Needless to say, leading broadcasters like Nickelodeon don’t make schedule changes of this magnitude without good reason, and we are thrilled that they continue support Rainbow Rangers heading into year two,” said Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO, Genius Brands.

“The series is airing in the US and internationally, and we have several hundred product SKUs planned for rollout at retail in 2020. As I have said many times, we are on track to build a new heavyweight pre-school brand, which we anticipate to peak within the next two years.”

In the international market, Rainbow Rangers season one debuted last summer across Latin America on Nickelodeon LatAm, as well as  in Italy, on Cartoonito. Genius Brands is currently in negotiations with key broadcasters and licensing agents worldwide. 

Rainbow Rangers is a rescue-based series that follows the adventures of seven girls who are Earth’s first responders, protecting people, animals, resources, and the natural beauty of our world.

The series boasts a unique and highly-accomplished team of creators from the animated motion picture and television worlds, including Rob Minkoff (Disney’s The Lion King director), Shane Morris (Disney’s Frozen co-writer), Tim Mansfield, and New York Times Bestselling author and Emmy Award-nominated writer Elise Allen (Dinosaur Train, Lion Guard, Barbie specials),  who serves as head writer and co-creator.

Multiple Emmy Award-winning director Michael Maliani directs the series, and Genius Brands’ Chairman and CEO and multiple Emmy Award-winning producer, Andy Heyward, serves as executive producer.