Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Merchandise Treadmill

Not had the luxury of time to blog much of late ... but Christmas Hols are now here, and so I have the luxury of some time to catch up and post stuff!

I've been trying to keep up with all the Doctor Who merchandise which is being released, but strangely it seems that while there's a lot of items coming out, you just can't buy them anywhere. In the good old days, Woolworths could be relied on to have the new stocks of toys, and just about every branch of every high street clothing chain from John Lewis to Tesco and Peacocks had Doctor Who clothing of all persuasions, but now there's nothing to be found in any of them - not even solitary pair of underpants!  And the toys ... even our local Toys R Us and Smythes don't seem to stock any of the new items. It seems that the only way to get anything is to order it online, which is great I suppose for the specialist shops who offer mail order, but I wonder whether this is enough to achieve the sales needed to make some of these ranges viable at all ... and when the big chains like Tesco or Asda or Sainsbury's don't stock any of the new toys, you have to wonder if the appeal is slipping somewhat.

A few years back, you could buy just about any item you can name with David Tennant's face on, but with Matt Smith there's next to nothing.

The reasons for this have been widely discussed and theorised on, and I have no special insights to offer. But it does seem that Doctor Who has slipped in the public perception once more. Add to this some strange decisions by the BBC/BBC Worldwide which mean that toys can never be available in shops at the same time that the episodes actually air. Then there's the security paranoia at anyone finding out what the new monsters and so on look like. All this leads to a marketing approach which shoots the whole range in the foot. Releasing items beforehand or while a film is on release doesn't seem to worry film franchises which have the toys, games and books on sale before the film is even released (see, for example, The Hobbit, where the toys and everything have been in the shops a good month before the release of the film). The BBC/BBC Worldwide don't seem to understand that getting the toys in the shops before transmission is a good way of raising interest and enthusiasm for the show itself, and that rather than 'spoiling' it, to be able to see and own a figure of some cool new monster you have yet to see on-screen helps to increase enthusiasm.

There's also the issue that what the show is currently presenting doesn't easily lend itself to promotion and marketing as figures and so on. The show's 50th Anniversary Calendar is a supremely disappointing affair, featuring PR shots of Matt Smith and companions, but all from the 2011 series, presumably as the BBC were unwilling or unable to release anything from the show which might be relevant for 2013, or, horror of horrors, to actually celebrate 50 years of the show.

So we end up with endless Doctor, Amy, River Song and Spaceman images and toy figures as that's all there is ... Nothing interesting or original ... such a shame ...

And then there's new items like Cleric Guns and the like which were never even seen in the series ... shouldn't be an issue, but these are high-end items designed to operate with the iPhone owning generation ... but you don't see them for sale anywhere and they cost a fortune to buy, and the company won't provide any review samples for people to look at ... it's all a recipe for disaster I think.  Even going back to the annual Toy Fairs, where prospective buyers are asked to place advance orders for ranges of Doctor Who toys which they're not actually allowed to see or know anything about ... madness.

We've just seen the new Christmas episode 'The Snowmen' and I'm wondering what merchandise opportunities might exist there ... figures: Doctor (again), Clara, Mme Vastra, Jenny and Strax the Sontaran (with gauntlet and memory worm accessories). Then there's snowmen (which were pretty rubbish), a see-through Governess, and Richard E Grant ... not very much really, and nothing which excites me as a fan and collector. I want to wax lyrical about this episode in another post though ... so I'll leave it there.

Someone else made the point that all the great 'classic' merchandise had brilliant artwork and imagination about it ... wheras all the stuff these days is supremely generic and 'branded' into the ground, leeching any originality from it. This is such a shame, and certainly for my part, I'd rather see original artwork covers by talented artists, than any number of generic photoshopped images of the same stock photos (no matter how talented the digital manipulation artists are - and some of them are geniuses!)

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