"We think of Asterix & Obelix as events"

What is a trademark license? To answer this question, the We Are COM team met the impresario of Asterix & Obélix: Céleste Surugue, general manager of Albert René editions. Heritage brand always renewed, what is the recipe for the magic potion? Where is the place of the new authors in this success? How to diversify without breaking with the DNA of your brand? Is the communicator also an editor? By toutatis, we have the answers! 

Hello Celeste! You who know them so well… How did Asterix and Obelix manage to be both universal and timeless?

It is true that Asterix and Obélix have a unique place in the collective imagination, in France and in many countries. Over the decades, there has been real popular appropriation. Without having devoured all the albums, you have at least in mind a drawing or a cult line like " They are crazy those Romans ! ". This is thanks to the quality of the illustrations and stories imagined by these two geniuses René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Very early on, comic books were taken over by cartoons, then by the amusement park and recently by the cinema. Asterix and Obélix have become trans-generational with this omnichannel approach and thanks to the content. The stories of the two irreducible Gauls are in the air, never in the news. There is no question of being in the satire of the moment. The idea is to stay classic. It is quite close to the literary tradition in France: from the characters of Jean de La Bruyère, to Molière, to the novel by Renart, via Rabelais… In short, timeless works which tell us the story of an era, valid from all the time. The themes of friendship, the discovery of the other or even resistance with the small against the large are universal. You just need to add talent, pedagogy, humor and movement.

With such charismatic characters, where is the place of the new authors? How to renew without distorting?

The primary vocation of our profession is to tell good stories with unusual drawings. To achieve this, the artist is key. Following in the footsteps of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo is not easy. It takes time and passion to understand the universe from within, the mechanics of storytelling, and the psychology of the characters. The public wants to find the invariants: the colors of the clothes, the banquet scene, the puns, the pirates, the names of the characters, the slaps, etc. But I assure you: there is no graphical charter nor semantics of Asterix and Obelix. The challenge is to meet the expectations of the 10 million readers with each release of a new album: the changes they are ready to accept and the references they absolutely want to find. The dosage of invariants and novelties requires a lot of talent and humility.

Beyond protecting, we must promote the brand

How do you value the "Asterix and Obelix" license?

The Asterix and Obelix license represents 60 years of success and an incredible gallery of characters. Each character can be associated with a brand, as long as it does not betray its system of values. Here the wallpaper does not work: you cannot paste a fictional property on any product. If the association project is meaningless, we reject it. Today we have 126 active contracts, in France and around the world; and we sign 70 new ones per year. These figures may be impressive, but they are to be put in perspective of the diversity of the markets in which the license is used (cinema, amusement park, toys, clothing, luggage, food products, restaurants, etc. .).

Chocolate, ice hockey, compote, highway restaurants… Between us, with your two mustaches, aren't you doing a little too much in co-branding?

No, we are looking for great partnerships by segment and not an endless multiplication of contracts. My goal is not to make the license profitable at all costs and in the short term. We can and prefer to develop long-term partnerships, which is an asset for partner brands. When you activate one of our licenses in June, you know that it will be just as strong in December because Asterix and Obelix are not a fashion affair. This is not the case for example with the release of a film, even a blockbuster.

The novelty with digital is the intensification of the relationship with the fans

Asterix and Obelix are talented when it comes to magic potion protection. Same for you?

Protection work is a duty with our partners. We check brand registrations and monitor usage. In the event of inadvertent use, we initiate legal proceedings. Beyond protecting, we must promote. To maintain this intangible capital and make it grow, we strive to think of Asterix and Obelix as an event and not as monuments. When we have the launch of a new album or a new film, it's one of the major editorial events of the year!

And how does the irreducible village take the digital turn?

Digital has not really revolutionized the consumption of comics, which retains the attributes of the beautiful book. The board with its boxes remains a comfortable format. Let's look at the sales: the tome Caesar's Papyrus has sold 2 million BD copies, against 10 in ebook. Certainly this is a significant figure in the electronic book market, but relatively marginal compared to our traditional sales. The novelty with digital is the intensification of the relationship with Asterix and Obelix fans on social networks, in particular via our page Facebook loved by over 800 people. We share scoops, news, behind the scenes and also the humor of our characters. The objective is to maintain the affinity bond and to promote the news of our partners. Compared to “classic” brands, we are fortunate to have a real wealth of content at our disposal and ready to be shared on social networks.

By the way, would we be doing the same job? Is a communicator an editor?

Undeniably, the communicator is the bearer of edited stories; in the sense that a good story is worked on, reworked, read and reread before being shared more widely. He is at the origin of the story while being the worthy representative of the reader. This round trip has I believe become complex in the age of social networks, flow, immediacy and interaction. The publisher and the communicator have in common the passion that drives them, words as tools and obviously the public.

3 things to know about Asterix & Obelix

> Asterix was elected the favorite comic book character of the French (BVA Foncia survey - Regional press, January 2017). Don't tell Obelix!
> In Germany, readers of Asterix and Obelix think it is a German creation making fun of the French. Faced with success, no one dared to tell the truth 🙂
> An Asterix and Obelix album can compete with a Hollywood film. Yes, yes… A copy is read on average by 4 to 5 readers, or an audience of 10 million French-language readers. Cocorico, right?

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