‘I can’t believe I get paid to watch films,’ enthuses Katie Frame, head of creative services at Buena Vista Home Entertainment. In effect, Frame’s job specification is more complex than her ebullience suggests. She is in charge of the promotion of all videos and DVDs for Disney and Buena Vista feature films, from the design of in-store, free-standing display units to the packaging, counter banners, counter cards and posters. But it seems a fun job, too.
In the airy Hammersmith Buena Vista quarters in London, the employees’ desks are crammed with Disney merchandise; Winnie the Pooh soft toys sitting alongside cardboard figures of Cinderella 2. Walking through stacks of new Disney animation and feature film videos and posters is enough to make you wonder how you can keep up with so many releases.
Frame herself is energetic, youthful and lives and breathes Disney’s values, which she quotes are ‘quality, safety, magic and morality’. When launching a campaign, her main focus is to create ‘maximum consistency’, a cohesive, creative strategy that doesn’t allow the characters’ traits to be diluted. Frame is also a guardian of how the brand can be used for the promotion of videos and DVDs. ‘It is so important to maintain the integrity of the characters,’ she says. ‘So many people grow up with Disney figures and feel they have some sort of proprietary rights upon them. My role is to maintain the balance between a commercially driven environment and their values.’
Frame’s background is a business one. She came to Buena Vista six years ago after a seven-year stint at Mars Confectionery where she started as a trainee and ended up in charge of trade marketing operations and in-store displays. ‘At the time when I came here we were looking at how we could introduce processes in the business and a more structured approach design,’ she says. ‘Previously, the guidelines for the retailers were much freer, and although we had the lion’s share of the children’s market, there was a sense that the party was coming to an end. The turning point was when we realised that the retailer power-base was becoming stronger, we were up against other competitors such as Dreamworks and we were fighting for shelf-space against other categories. As a consequence, we needed to invest in in-store point-of-purchase as an extra point of awareness to support the TV and advertising campaigns.’
The solution was to ‘add more process in the creative workflow, be more consultative with our salesteam, understand the retailer’s requirements and improve efficiency with the functionality of items we were producing. You need to ask yourself, where can [the display] be sited? Can it have a dual purpose, could it be hung or put on the counter? How can you tailor it to Asda and Woolworths?’ says Frame. There is an obvious US connection, but only some of the in-store retail concepts make it to the UK says Frame, since ‘the retail market here is very different and probably more sophisticated and more complex in terms of the requirements. Our challenge is to work with the retailers and maximise the in-store theatre.’
To reproduce a sense of spectacle in the stores, Frame has help from an internal team of five people-plus from two major consultancies whom she commissions regularly for all the design work.
But under strict Buena Vista regulation, she cannot name the external companies. For Frame, it is vital to ‘use the story’, which is what sets the Buena Vista product apart from, for example, ‘baked beans’. Week one of distribution is the crucial time to invest all the efforts, although the creative process may have started nine months before the release date. Innovation and interaction with the customer, via printing techniques or cardboard engineering or games, are also elements to consider.
Since Frame’s arrival, the rise of DVD has opened up a host of new possibilities for the home entertainment market. According to Buena Vista’s 2002 report, between January and June 2001, the growth of DVD outstripped the growth of the home entertainment market as a whole by 114 per cent. By 2003 it is estimated that the value of DVD will represent over half that of the home entertainment market, with VHS still holding on very well.
For the department, this has meant a doubling of the workload. ‘We took over the DVD deal from Warner Home Video for our titles about 18 months ago. It has given us huge opportunities and design challenges, such as how to site DVD in relation to VHS and how do we display it.’ says Frame. Educational interactive kiosks that help mothers – arguably the key holders to the children’s market – have also been introduced in an attempt to educate the benefits and the workings of the new format.
For Frame, the future is to keep pushing the boundaries and make sure Buena Vista keeps its lead in the entertainment sector with innovative in-store concepts and by educating consumers in DVD. She has a great product on her hands and certainly enjoys playing with it.
Katie Frame’s CV
Career: 1989-96 – Mars Confectionery:Started with 2-year commercial training scheme studying business and finance. Secondments included engineering, distribution and marketing.2 years in personnel.3 years in trade marketing.
1996-2002 – Buena Vista Home Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company:Progressed from creative manager to group manager, then promoted at the start of 2002 to head of creative services