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Sunny Days for Sale

By Jan 01, 2007

Maura Regan not only knows how to sell Sesame Street, she knows how not to sell it.

Regan, Sesame Workshop’s vice president and general manager of global licensing, carefully guards the show’s intellectual property. She chooses partners with an eye toward how they help children and families.

Selling something that kids shouldn’t have? Forget it. But if you’re marketing vegetables or educational DVDs, Regan is interested in talking to you.

Regan recently spoke with PROMO about this good-for-you focus. And she should know about what’s good for kids. She has a 9-year-old daughter of her own.

PROMO: What are the most licensed Sesame Street characters?

REGAN: Of the top 10 most popular characters in the U.S., we’ve got six. It’s Elmo, it’s Big Bird, it’s Cookie Monster, it’s Ernie. And in some places, it’s Oscar the Grouch and Grover. They connect with kids in a way that an animated character doesn’t. They really are human creatures, and they live in today’s world.

PROMO: What qualities do you look for in partners?

REGAN: It’s important that we align ourselves with partners who are like-minded and have the same vision in terms of helping children and families and providing content that is meaningful to their lives. We look for partners with whom we can work over the long haul, not just for today or tomorrow, but for the next five years.

PROMO: What guidelines must brands follow when licensing your characters?

REGAN: We are very, very strict about how our characters are used. And we are very clear right up front with our partners, so there are no surprises. Companies might push to use our characters in a certain way, but it’s nothing we have ever had a problem with. For any preschool property, it’s industry standard. There will be no affiliation with firearms, tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

PROMO: What else is off limits?

REGAN: Our research tells us that moms don’t want to buy candy bars. What they need help with is navigating the fruit and vegetable aisles. Candy confectionery licensing deals can be very lucrative, but we feel it is not a space where we can add value. It’s always hard to say no. But, because of this special place we occupy in the hearts and minds of children and families, we just can’t do certain things.

PROMO: Can Del Monte sell more product after putting Grover on a can of peas?

REGAN: We had testimonials from parents saying: ‘You know, I never could get my kids to eat any vegetables. But now, because we saw your characters on these cans of Del Monte green beans, corn and peas, my kids are eating them for the first time.’ Kids think the characters are their best friends. If their best friend is eating corn, they may try it, too.

PROMO: What type of licensing deals are you working on for 2007?

REGAN: We are expanding in the fruit and vegetable aisles. We’ll be out there speaking with all the right folks. We are expanding our product range with Hain Celestial Group. What we are really trying to tackle is ready-made meals. That’s what we hear from parents: that they need something that is on-the-go and healthy.

PROMO: What is your greatest challenge?

REGAN: It’s how we make a difference in a very cluttered licensing landscape. There are so many wonderful toys for families out there now. But I credit Sesame for creating this incredible business model and consistently keeping the bar really, really high.