Posted on Sunday 13 October 2013 by Ulster Business

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Companies in the creative industries must take a 360 degree approach to launching their brands and consider partners in different media in order to succeed in today’s fast moving market.

That will be the key message that international speaker Eric Huang will deliver when he speaks at the Arts Council’s Creative Industries “Thrive” event at the Lyric Theatre on October 15.

Currently development director of digital agency Made in Me, Huang worked with Northern Ireland companies in his previous role as new business director at publisher Pengiun. He plans to use Derry-based children’s media company Dog Ears as a case study of a successful partnership between a publisher and animation company. It was announced last month that Dog Ears’s new animated TV series Puffin Rock has been signed up by broadcasters Nick Jr and RTE Jnr.

“I’ll be giving examples of how formerly very distinct industries like film and publishing and gaming are now merging and a lot of media companies now think about the brand – not just the TV, not just the book, about everything. It is a 360 approach to launching a brand,” Huang told Ulster Business.

“If something like Puffin Rock had appeared five years ago I don’t think we at Penguin would have got on board in the same way as we did, we would have waited until the TV was out, looked at the ratings and then said let’s do a publishing deal. But instead we invested in the TV before there was any deal because we loved it and wanted to be more of a part of it than just a publishing partner,” he added.

“About two or three years ago my focus was all about digital, digital, digital and now I think it is more about brand. The focus isn’t on digital versus physical, it is on the brand first and how you tell that story, whether it be through TV, books or apps.”

Huang believes more creative digital businesses could get their ideas off the ground by approaching partners with commercial deals early in the process.

“Publishing houses like Random House and Pengiun or broadcasters like Nickelodeon now see apps and digital products as viable. Toy companies like Mattel and Hasbro who a few years ago might have been more risk averse are now interested. There is more money if you find the right partner,” he said.

Huang believes there’s strong talent in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland which can now be recognised as self publishing to App stores is so easy.

“Being able to reach a global audience by self publishing on to the app stores is really powerful. Whereas before you maybe had to have four or five partners in order to put together something really huge or who had distribution, you can now go direct, which is a great opportunity for regions like Northern Ireland.” 

‘Thrive’ will celebrate the success of Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries and showcase the work of some of the creative companies supported by the £4.5m DCAL/Arts Council Creative Industries Innovations Fund (CIIF) including Airpos Ltd, Abigail Ryan homewares, Sixteen South and Jude Cassidy Textiles.

The second CIIF programme, which runs to 2015 and was a Programme for Government target, can offer creative businesses up to £10,000 and sector organisations up to £20,000.

It must fund 200 projects by 2015 and, having funded 150 so far, will open the last round of funding for the remaining 50 in January.

David McConnell, Creative Industries Development Officer at the Arts Council NI says filling the quota won’t be hard as they get three times as many applications as they can fund.

“We’ve funded visual artists, gamers, textile designers, app developers, musicians, TV production companies, architecture – within the creative economy we’ve touched on pretty much everything,” he said.

“The CIIF fund is capped at £10,000, so we can only do so much. But the likes of Dogears and Sixteensouth would say that £10,000 got them through a crucial stage.”

While he says digital media entrepreneurs have proved to be very savvy when it comes to applying for the funding, CIIF is equally open to more traditional craft-based organisations.

“I see us as a catalyst for companies who need to make that initial jump but for whom other types of funding isn’t around because it is aimed at bigger projects. A lot of them have made that jump or been able to access further investment through CIIF,” said McConnell.

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