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Atlantyca CEO Claudia Mazzucco on how to build a global brand: Think local & trust your licensees

Claudia Mazzucco started her career in two advertising agencies. She was hired by Edizioni Piemme in 1994 as Direct Mail Manager of the book club, and from 1995 to 2007 she was the Managing Director of Edizioni Piemme. Since 2007, she has been the CEO of Atlantyca Entertainment S.p.A., a company founded in September 2006 by Pietro Marietti, founder of Edizioni Piemme and rights holder of the famous Geronimo Stilton character. In 2010, Claudia Mazzucco was recognized for her dedication to creating and implementing a stream of new ideas for the expansion of children’s literacy between China and Italy with the 2010 Woman Manager Award. Atlantyca maintains offices in Milan and New York, and has a representative office in Beijing.

You can download the whole Frankfurt Academy Quarterly “Can I play too?!” on children’s and young adult’s media as a PDF here and join in the conversation on the Book Fair Blog.

By Siobhan O’Leary
It all started with a two-dimensional talking mouse with a penchant for cheese. The bestselling Italian children’s book series “Geronimo Stilton” was launched by Edizioni Piemme in 2000. Since then, the series has not only become an international sensation that has been translated into 35 languages, but its success has also been “translated” into a variety of other media and merchandise. Although author Elisabetta Dami was the creative force behind the series, Atlantyca Entertainment – a transmedia entertainment company with production, distribution, licensing, publishing and foreign rights divisions – has taken this and other series to the next level. Founded in 2006 by publishing entrepreneur Pietro Marietti, Atlantyca develops brands for children’s publishing, animation and consumer products. Atlantyca owes its success to a combination of in-house creativity and openness to working with co-production partners. According to CEO Claudia Mazzucco, Atlantyca plays three roles in the entertainment industry: 1) intellectual property holder 2) licensing agent and 3) licensee focused on developing book series based on TV shows.

“The department that deals with licensing rights manages both the ones pertaining to our intellectual property and the ones we have acquired from third parties,” she says. In the latter case, Atlantyca seeks out a brand it wants to represent and approaches the copyright holder. Atlantyca is the Italian licensing agent for LLPM’s “Le Petit Prince”, for example, and works on the narrative development of other existing brands, like “Code Lyoko”, “Skyland” and “The Black King”.

But Atlantyca’s greatest strength lies in its content creation and licensing capabilities. “We are a content provider and trader,” says Mazzucco. “We invent or develop third party content and then we sell the rights to third parties to exploit that content on different media.” These third parties range from broadcasters and publishers to video game producers and manufacturers. The company first used this approach with the “Geronimo Stilton” series, which became the basis for two animated series co-produced with the production company Moonscoop. Over 74 million books have been sold all over the world and the two animated series have been sold in over 100 countries. A website and strong licensing plan round out the package.

The success of Geronimo Stilton encouraged the company to continue to invest in transmedia projects with other brands, including “Bat Pat, which has been translated into 16 languages and has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide. The publishing department collaborates with a team of established writers and with its Atlantyca Dreamfarm division to develop in-house literary productions. Atlantyca acquired the Milan-based children’s book producer Dreamfarm in April 2011. Later that year, Atlantyca also established Atlantyca LAB, which is focused on the world of video games, apps, web content, and exploiting the brands and copyrights owned by Atlantyca. “We have an internal department that seeks licensees (video games) and two content provider departments (animation and publishing) that produce TV series and books,” explains Mazzucco.

Over the years, Atlantyca’s foreign rights department has secured 3,700 translation deals with over 130 publishers worldwide. It also represents translation rights for Piemme’s children’s books and properties. But as properties are dispersed across various media and multiple international markets, how does Atlantyca maintain control over its brands? “You must choose the best partner, and share their ideas for developing [a brand] and their commitment in terms of money and resources,” says Mazzucco. In addition, Atlantyca has approval over every single phase of production.

In the end it comes down to trust. “You have to trust your licensees,” says Mazzucco. “In fact, they are taking a risk, too, but trust should not be taken for granted. For us the challenge is to choose the best licensee in the local market.” To make this decision a bit easier, Atlantyca representatives often visit other markets before starting the localization process. The company also works with native speaker consultants who conduct market research. Before agreeing to work with a licensee, Atlantyca requests a business plan from the potential licensee to be able to gauge the level of commitment. Contractually speaking, their licensing deals are based on an advance against royalty.

The other key to succeeding in foreign markets, according to Mazzucco, is to think local when choosing the right product for a given market, even if a brand is ultimately being developed on a global scale. “If we speak about digital products, eBooks are local because of the language. The translation of the ‘Geronimo Stilton’ books needs to be localized. Live shows are local. The ‘Geronimo Stilton’ website is the same everywhere but every local licensee and publisher uploads local content, products, news and events,” explains Mazzucco. Decisions become even more subtle when it comes to merchandising. “If we’re talking about licensing, it depends on the category. While toys should be multiterritorial, apparel should be local.”

But at a time when technology is changing by the minute, how does Atlantyca keep up not only with young readers’ expectations in Italy, but also in vastly different markets throughout the world? “Thanks to our transmedia business model, we are used to being constantly updated on every trend and, above all, we can compare and match the information and sensations that are coming from the different markets.” And then there is the creative factor. According to Mazzucco, Atlantyca’s creative people work hard to sense trends that haven’t yet become apparent in other markets.

Social media is also a valuable tool, but tricky because Atlantyca’s target audience (3 to 11 years) is “still protected by parents from a lot of exposure to social media,” says Mazzucco. However, she adds that there is an educational element to social media that provides motivation for parents and teachers not only to allow, but even encourage children to access it.

Meet Claudia Mazzucco, CEO of Atlantyca

Claudia will speak at the Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) Conference in Frankfurt

Or contact Claudia on LinkedIn

Tools of Change Frankfurt returns for a fourth year, gathering the best and brightest in the global publishing and technology community for a full day of intriguing keynotes, sessions, and networking. More than 30 sessions will cover the latest debates on eBook standards, pricing, metadata, and supply chain innovations.

When:  Tuesday, 9 October 2012, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Frankfurt Marriott Hotel, Hamburger Allee 2, Frankfurt am Main

Contact: Isabel Schmittknecht, schmittknecht@book-fair.com, t: +49 (0) 69 2102166