How annoying can an orange be? Pretty endearingly annoying when it has the eyes, mouth and persona of Dane Boe­digheimer, creator of the iconic Internet phenomenon. The Annoying Orange, the most-watched comedy web series of all time, is beloved for playfully heckling other fruits, vegetables or nearby objects with puns and jokes. The appeal of Annoying Orange and his kitchen crew has been evident for the past two years, as leading brands including Nokia, Sprint and Dole have delved into marketing partnerships that reach millions of Annoying Orange fans. 

Now, the Orange is the star of his own line of licensed products that include toys, plush, figurines, mini-collectibles, apparel, loungewear, accessories and Halloween costumes. Launched at all Toys R Us stores during the 2011 Christmas holidays, the licensed toys were promoted with a dedicated Annoying Orange brand page on toysrus.com that features products and the very first and most viewed “The Annoying Orange” episode.

The Annoying Orange talked up his “toys, toys, toys” in a national multimedia advertising campaign that appeared on the Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network cable television channels, as well as on leading websites during the fourth quarter of 2011. Ongoing viral campaigns across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and annoyingorange.com continue to engage fans, maximize awareness and drive sales. In 2012, a QR code on packaging will provide consumers access to a series of exclusive, never-before-seen Annoying Orange videos.

YouTube is where the Annoying Orange hangs out. The Internet video phenomenon has been squeezed into more than 120 episodes, but with a new series set to debut on Cartoon Network in 2012, the fruity sensation and his zany antics will be extended to 30-minute episodes.

Created by North Dakota native Dane Boed­igheimer and produced by entertainment management and production company The Collective, the Annoying Orange Web series will celebrate 1 billion total views in January. It is the ninth-most-subscribed YouTube channel of all time and has more than 2.1 million subscribers and nearly 10 million fans on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the Annoying Orange’s popularity also translates to its official web site, www.annoyingorange.com, which generates nearly 4 million page views monthly.

“With this kind of exposure and appeal, it’s no wonder that the Annoying Orange has become the first YouTube phenomenon to leap off the computer screen into retail stores,” points out Debra Joester, president of the Annoying Orange’s licensing agency, The Joester Loria Group.

Orange Appeal

Promoting the zest of the Annoying Orange without being too grating is the job of The Joester Loria Group’s founders, Debra Joester and Joanne Loria. They have developed and executed award-winning licensing programs for clients including Jeep, Dr. Scholl’s, American Greetings, Care Bears, Comedy Central’s South Park and network giants The Discovery Channel and the Animal Planet cable channels.

The agency was committed to tapping into consumer demand and launching Annoying Orange products for the 2011 holidays despite a late start. “Our agreement with The Collective wasn’t inked until May 2011, so we recognized the importance of working with licensees that could crash schedules to get great product into stores for holiday 2011,” Joester emphasizes.

Jay Foreman, president and CEO of The Bridge, the master toy licensee, had to move quickly to meet the Christmas holiday 2011 deadline. “This was extremely challenging because of the incredibly tight timelines,” Foreman stresses. “I only first got a formal pitch on the property in June 2011 and finalized the deal in July. With a breakout new property like this, assets for development are generally scarce. So on top of the timeline, getting enough reference materials to create a viable line quickly can be pretty tough.

“Fortunately, The Collective and the creator, Dane Boedigheimer, were incredibly flexible and generous in getting us what we needed in record time by bending over backwards to move things along and provide all the material we needed,” Foreman continues. “It was truly a joint effort, and without everyone being extremely collaborative, we never would have pulled this off. We were able to sign the deal in July and get product to market by the end of November!”

Joester adds that Foreman and the Bridge were committed to the Annoying Orange and invested in developing the toys and multiple sound chips along with a television advertising campaign to support the launch of Annoying Orange toys. “Jay has an extraordinary ability to pick pop culture hits,” Joester stresses. “As soon as he saw the Annoying Orange, he recognized it had that unique ability to connect with consumers.”

Foreman worked with The Joester Loria Group several years ago when the agency relaunched Care Bears, the 1980s classic, establishing a multibillion-dollar licensing success. Foreman also is credited with the relaunch of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, and introducing Britney Spears and Justin Bieber dolls at the height of their popularity.

“My assessment process for picking brands has developed over a lifetime of having hits and misses in this business,” Foreman explains. “Sometimes in a pinch, that solid 300-hitter has to get to bat quickly to get a hit. The launch timeline for Annoying Orange is not at all typical, but it is not unusual, as at least one or two concepts a year come to market very late. Often the trade or at least one retailer picks up on it, recognizes the opportunity and moves quickly to open up space at the last minute. Last year, it was for Justin Bieber dolls, and this year it was for the Annoying Orange.”

Retail Response

A strategic partnership with Toys R Us provided a national retail platform for the launch of the Annoying Orange toys. A selection of toys was in stores in late November, promoted with an online and TV marketing campaign. “We were able to drive consumers to Toys R Us stores and to the Annoying Orange microsite on toysrus.com, where product quickly sold out,” Joester stated. “It’s been a strange year in the toy market, with few must-have breakout toys, so Annoying Orange has gotten a lot of attention across all media platforms. ”

Because of the speed with which Annoying Orange products had to be produced, Joester anticipated that the limited inventory available late in the holiday shopping season would require close coordination with committed retail launch partners to avoid disappointing fans with sold-out stores.

“Toys R Us has been a great partner and instrumental in delivering products to fans in 2011,” she stresses. “They provided great in-store placement in high-traffic locations near cash registers, sent e-mail blasts to customers and helped drive awareness with the Annoying Orange microsite. Toys R Us was very pleased with sales results, and in spring 2012, an expanded selection of toys will be available exclusively at Toys R Us.”

Annoying Orange fashions – such as young men’s and juniors’ t-shirts licensed to Hybrid Apparel – also were sold during the 2011 Christ­mas holidays at J.C. Penney’s as well as several specialty store chains. “Grow­ing media buzz and a successful initial launch of apparel and toys positions the program for a big year in 2012, as the series begins to air on Cartoon Network,” Joester says.

Coming in 2012 are products from a number of other licensees including category leader Li and Fung with loungewear and sleepwear; Accessory Innovations with backpacks, headwear and cold weather accessories; and Rubies with Halloween costumes. The multicategory expansion also will include games, puzzles, video games, publishing, stationery, room décor, food and beverages, and gifts. 

The Annoying Orange reaches a wide and diverse audience. Recent research with its fan site and Facebook users revealed a big tween and young adult following for the Orange as well as a significant under-10 following. “The web series has been around for more than two years, and virally savvy younger consumers have discovered it,” Joester reports. “We see a significant number of seven- to eight-year-olds as well as young adults on YouTube posting videos and engaging with the property.” 

Creative Community 

The Annoying Orange dropped from a tree fairly recently. “The Annoying Orange launched on YouTube in 2009 and just took off,” recalls Michael Green, CEO of The Collective. “Dane is funny, prolific and highly creative. From spoofing Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ song to critiquing the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ movie, it’s clear that Dane has his finger on the pulse of pop culture.” A new short video premiers every week on YouTube, and at certain times of year, episodes debut more often.

“We ultimately decided to launch a licensing program for the Annoying Orange because we knew there was appetite for the YouTube sensation that extended beyond the computer screen,” Green adds. “Given the success at retail over the holidays, it is clear that fans are embracing the new products.”

The Joester Loria Group was recommended to The Collective by some of the agency’s clients because of its work in the pop culture space. “We launched the licensing program for ‘South Park’ and worked with the creators for two years,” Joester remarks. “Dane has a very similar just-in-time kind of connectivity to the world around him and pop culture that we saw with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who created ‘South Park.’ He has an amazing ability to synthesize pop culture into one- to two-minute shorts every week.

“While we believed it was important to launch in 2011, we also recognized the importance of a disciplined approach that would ensure the market was not flooded with goods,” she continues. “Our goal was to build demand and then fill the pipeline with more products.”

Foreman agrees that it is ill-advised to jam the market with goods. “Given the fact that we have a TV show coming on Cartoon Network this summer, we can afford a slower build, keeping things tight until the exposure moves to the next level,” he declares. “The property has a very solid base of fans, and the show will just take it to the next level. There is really no roadmap for a property like this, since the web, apps and YouTube are such new mediums for launching brands. So we are going to play it by ear and just make sure we put fun, quality products in the market that are priced right. We’ll let nature and the market take its course and try to go with the flow.”

Although the Annoying Orange would not necessarily praise a flock of birds, Joester does. “Angry Birds helped break ground for properties coming out of the viral space,” she exults. “This is the second Christmas we’re seeing viral-based properties driving retail sales, validating new ‘entertainment’ properties from unconventional sources – not just movies or TV.”

Joester says interest in the Annoying Orange is growing among retailers based on calls from their buyers to get in on the Orange. “We anticipate 2012 will be the year that leading national retail chains make a commitment to the Annoying Orange,” she predicts. “For the past few months, buyers have seen the buzz build around this property, and the recent surge of retail interest is a great bellwether for things to come.”

The Orange’s Characters

Among the different characters who animate the Annoying Orange’s world are:

Passion – Passion Fruit is the smartest fruit in the kitchen, and the object of Orange’s affection. 

Pear – Despite their differences, Pear and Orange have been best buds for quite a while.

Midget Apple – The smallest member.

Marshmallow – Marshmallow is one sweet little dude, and it’s got nothing to do with sugar or gelatin! 

Liam the Leprechaun – Liam is the Orange’s mortal, magical enemy!

Grapefruit – He’s fit, he’s firm, he’s flexing! That’s Grapefruit, the kitchen’s resident bad boy!

Grandpa Lemon – Grandpa Lemon is by far the oldest fruit in the kitchen. He’s also the sleepiest.

Check out the Annoying Orange comedy roast!