Licensing out of the Box

Posted on: Saturday 06 July 2013 1:25pm by David Ault


A look at the changing landscape of licensing new and nostalgic brands from heritage and digital companies.

It’s very interesting to see the differences between heritage and digital, and to see the same – and very different – challenges.
Siobhan Pridgeon, BAFTA

Fruitful conversations about where the next big things are coming from, and what the digital metrics for success are.
Ed Corn, MTM London

We need a retail session, getting big retailers in with publishers and TV companies to create partnerships and get perspectives from both sides of licensing.
Bianca Abulafia, MTM London

Top ten takeaways:
1. Above all things, it is imperative to listen to your audience and be audience-driven.
2. Digital moves very quickly, and it’s important to plan to keep the physical up to date.
3. Brand awareness and uniqueness are key to its success.
4. In 2012, 84,500 children’s books were published in the UK.
5. Publishers are providing rich grounds for licensing companies.
6. If you create games, get your clients and licensees to play those games to understand the mechanics.
7. Children drive the growth and evolution of online games.
8. Reinventing nostalgia brands requires painstaking and careful discovery of what makes the brand iconic.
9. Physical products can bring children back to games, but some people who have physical products don’t even know of the online world.
10. Remember to consider the brand – What is special? Why would anyone buy it? Will the audience like it?

With the advent of digital brands like Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters coming into everyday life, how does this play out for traditional publishers wanting to push the other way, and what options are available for licensing content? On stage were two speakers from traditional media – Anna Hewitt of Walker Books and Michael Dee of Coolabi – and two from digital media – John Vasta of Bin Weevils and Darran Garnham of Mind Candy.

From the heritage side of things, Anna Hewitt reminded the audience that there is still plenty of mileage in the books market, generating £320m in 2012 from the 84,500 new books published in 2012. She started the licensing ball rolling by asking what makes something special – could it be a toy, game or children’s costume? What’s the appeal of Guess how much I love you, leading to a target audience of new parents with babies? She concluded that the biggest hits of recent times have originated from publishing.

Bin Weevils have created a social world for kids – entrepreneurial, social and quirky, with 20m registered accounts. John Vasta spoke about how monetising the success of the brand has been an interesting odyssey, from licensing toys to in-game advertising. A question at the end of the session picked up on this, asking how the recent controversy over children buying things in-game has caused a lot of problems, to which the digital contingent said that the regulators are in frequent dialogue with the industry, but it is clear that children are engaging with the content and wanting to continue playing.

Michael Dee then took the audience through the process of reinventing old brands, focussing on Purple Ronnie (25 years old) and Bagpuss (40 years old). Showing us the development sketches, he took us through whether slightly different drawings take away the nostalgia – is the character still the same? Obviously the more faithful the rendering, the better the brand loyalty.

Lastly came Darran Garnham of Mind Candy, the company behind Moshi Monsters. Every client that wants to interact must adopt a monster first, so that they can understand what is going on with the whole idea itself. In all the developments, from toys to trading cards, the brand essence has been kept consistent – to make kids smile.

Asked from the floor what digital and heritage envy of each other, it was noted that digital knows its audience extremely well, from demographic to location. Heritage however retains that deep-rooted nostalgia and emotional pull, although with new characters emerging from a variety of areas, that may well change over the next few years. There is a fine line, however, between monetisation and giving the public a way to take their favourite characters out of books and tablets – if done properly, the brand is strengthened; if not, it will be discarded.

And what will be the next big thing? Dumb ways to die has come from a road safety campaign, and no-one could have foreseen the success of Angry Birds and Candy Crush. The panel, however, refused to be drawn – or at least, to publish their feelings.

Nathan Hull (Penguin)

Mike Dee (Coolabi)
Anna Hewitt (Walker)
Jon Vasta (Bin Weevils)
Daaran Garnham (Mind Candy)

Produced by:
Julia Posen, Walker Books Group

Executive Producer:
Helen McAleer

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David Ault, Storyteller and Astrophysicist – The Mercenary Artist

About the author

David Ault

The Mercenary Artist, Storyteller and Astrophysicist

David is a voice actor and storyteller who has toured the country - and the internet - doing drama and creating all sorts of characters. He is also a scientist, regularly putting out astronomy podcasts, and travelled across North America blogging about the state of science communication on the continent… Read more