Brazil’s Hottest YouTube Star Is a Blue Chicken. Next Stop: USA

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Bromelia Producoes Co-Founders
Bromelia Producoes co-founders Juliano Prado and Marcos Luporini sit next to the kids-cartoon-turned-Internet-sensation they created in 2006. Source: Bromelia Producoes via Bloomberg

Brazil’s biggest YouTube star is a blue spotted hen named Galinha Pintadinha -- Lottie Dottie in English -- and she’s out to take over the world. At least, that’s how it feels to parents in Brazil.

The cartoon juggernaut is to Brazilian toddlers what Justin Bieber is to tween girls. Her Portuguese-language YouTube channel featuring traditional children’s songs has been viewed more than 1.8 billion times, which works out to almost 10 views for every single man, woman and child in Brazil.

The chicken’s rise to stardom -- co-creators Juliano Prado and Marcos Luporini first posted the cartoon on YouTube and it took off by word of mouth, generating about $600 million in revenue last year -- shows the power of online media and the growing influence of the Latino market, said Devra Prywes, a vice president at online advertising technology company Unruly.

“If you have quality content, kids don’t care if you’re working out of your garage making content, or if you’re Disney,” Prywes said in a telephone interview. “Social video and online video -- it’s the great equalizer.”

Last year, licensing of the cartoon’s image earned more in revenue than products bearing the names of billionaire Donald Trump, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and Ferrari, according to License! Global, a news website that tracks licensing trends. Walt Disney Co., which owns the right to hundreds of characters from Frozen’s Princesses Anna and Elsa to Spiderman and Luke Skywalker, earned $45 billion, the most of any company.

In Brazil, Galinha Pintadinha hocks tablets, shoes and toothpaste. Giant fuzzy versions of her and her friends -- a lying cockroach and a frog that refuses to wash his feet, to name a few -- serenade party-goers at first birthday celebrations.

Demon or Salvation?

“Demon!,” one parent complains on the barnyard fowl’s YouTube page of the sometimes-psychedelic animations and annoyingly cute songs. But for others, it’s a necessary evil. “My daily salvation,” another mom says.

Privately held Bromelia Producoes Ltda, the 12-person production company founded by Prado, 44, and Luporini, 45, has held talks to sell all or part of the company, and is developing a TV show, the two animators said in an interview. Already, the videos are available on Netflix, with English translations being rolled out this year.

In many ways, it’s a fluke they got this far. Ex-bandmates from high school, Prado made online greeting cards and Luporini worked at a music studio when they decided to resurrect songs from their childhood on the side.

They scored a meeting with a local producer to present the idea in 2006 but couldn’t make it on time. So they slapped the video on YouTube and had a friend pitch it instead. The meeting went nowhere, but the video garnered more than half a million hits online within months. Parents wanted more. Four DVDs and dozens of videos ensued.

“It’s surreal,” Prado said. “Our biggest dream at the time was to get the DVD on the shelves.”

YouTube didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Tackling the U.S. market will be significantly harder than in Brazil, Unruly’s Prywes said.

“As they’re looking for world domination, they’re going to need to tailor their message and their messaging for different territories across the world,” Prywes said. The speckled hen “won’t trigger the same nostalgia and recognition in a global audience.”

Even so, the cult of the Galinha Pintadinha is already winning over converts among Spanish-speaking families in the U.S. after La Gallina Pintadita en Español debuted four years ago. More than 1 billion YouTube views worldwide and counting. About 15 percent of the company’s revenue from apps now comes from the U.S., up from zero last year.

“The American market opens the door to the rest of the world,” said Vera Pacheco, a marketing professor at the Sao Paulo-based university known as Faap. “All the companies want to be there.”

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