Commercial vs Creative

David Sprei – Commercial Director at Penguin Ventures – looks at why a balance of commercial sensibilities and creative strategy is the key to crafting successful brand extensions…

A healthy balance between a commercial drive and creative sensibilities drives what we do. All brand owners are set up differently according to scale, and the relationships between commercial teams and creative teams inevitably vary depending on where you look.

I’m very fortunate to be in a relatively small team at Penguin Ventures. I have an open and collaborative relationship with our Creative Director, Thomas Merrington – it also helps that Thomas is very commercially astute as well as a brilliant creative.

It’s important to get this balance between commercial instincts and creative nous right because ultimately, it’s absolutely key to delivering a great licensed product or experience.

Design, creativity and innovation is at the heart of all successful and memorable brand extensions, and with my commercial hat on, great products naturally fuel the longevity of licensing partnerships too.
It’s never really about the Minimum Guarantees on a deal. It’s about delivering for years to come and building a network of licensees that really understand your brand and can stretch it, helping to expand character worlds… In turn becoming part of the narrative.

“Whichever side your fall into, you need to have a blend of both creative and commerical skillsets to deliver on impact, success and integrity.”

Whether you’re on the commercial side or the creative side, you want to do things well – and in our industry, you often only get one chance.

Look at The Snowman. We get one quarter a year to get the right product in at the right time to appeal to the right audience. We’ve got to consider how far we can push the brand creatively, while also ensuring it remains authentic and commercially viable.

There’s a view that those in commercial roles want to strike deals that do the numbers as soon as possible, while creative types may want a longer, more ‘considered’ journey. I don’t buy into that. Whichever side you fall into, you need to have a blend of both skillsets to deliver on impact, success and integrity.

I’m absolutely commercially minded, but I understand and get involved with the creative side of the business. It’s something that takes time, and I certainly wasn’t aware or engaged with the product-development side of the industry straight away. But it’s a learning curve worth pursuing to deepen your overall understanding of the industry.

The same sense of balance applies to designers and creative directors in our industry. The very best creatives understand the commercial viability of ideas; it’s a cornerstone of how they approach what they do.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand and embrace both sides, and – in my opinion – it’s this balance that’s a key driver behind some of the industry’s most successful products and experiences.

To read more content from the Brands Untapped 100: 2022 edition click here.

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