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The Licensing Lookout: Childhood favourites

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes comes across a new member of the ‘brands in TV campaigns’ club.

I was very heartened this week to see one of my childhood favourite characters Mr Benn getting a new airing.

Mr Benn has joined the growing club of characters that are being used by brand owners in TV campaigns – it is quite an eclectic membership: Fred Flintstone, Top Cat, He-Man, Skeletor and Mr Benn, who is featured in a charming animated commercial for The Insurance Emporium.


The Insurance Emporium is a specialist insurance provider which covers a wide range of insurance services focusing on more specialist areas such as insurance for horses, weddings and fishing. It has used Mr Benn for some time in a range of ways including on its website, at a roadshow and on YouTube. I believe this recently launched TV commercial is its first TV campaign.

Reading the testimonial it has provided Mr Benn on the website, it seems this is proving to be a very successful partnership. Creatively and tonally Mr Benn is a good fit to the brand and the product range. Mr Benn’s Shopkeeper and an Emporium chime well together.

Audience-wise I am guessing people of my age are the sort of customers it is hoping to reach and in this context Mr Benn works well – the character and the animation cut through commercial clutter and catch the viewer’s attention. The Insurance Emporium has backed up the TV campaign well with Mr Benn ‘taking over’ its website.

Interestingly, I tweeted about the commercial earlier in the week and got an immediate response from The Insurance Emporium – this was impressive and a really good example of a company realising the importance (and potential) of social media. Mr Benn has helped it create a point of interest and provoke a conversation.


At the moment there are lots of stories of retailers being in trouble, which has a knock on effect for licensing, so it is encouraging to see campaigns like the Mr Benn one reinforcing the fact that licensing is a flexible business and has the potential to be used in a variety of ways.

I look forward to seeing a commercial break that is made up 100% of commercials featuring licensed characters and clips… it can’t be far off.


I need you to keep a secret. From my Mum. I know she doesn’t read The Licensing Lookout so it should be okay. I bought her a book for Mother’s Day this week called Mother’s Day on Coronation Street, which is published by Harper Collins and licensed by ITV Studios. The book is set in the Second World War and is telling a back story involving Coronation Street’s legendary character Annie Walker.

This is the second book of its kind following on from Christmas on Coronation Street. This is a really smart bit of publishing tapping into the characters and story arc of the soap opera with a style of book that is on trend and, of course, published to take advantage of a key gifting opportunity.

Coronation Street is a perfect fit for this kind of publishing. It may not work for all TV brands, but it is a good case study for others to look at and could be a pointer for other NPD in the future. It has also helped solve the perennial problem of what to buy my mum.


Finally, I visited Tate Modern this week and popped into one of the shops. On previous visits I had noticed that it stocks a range of Miffy products, blending some standard licensed lines with some bespoke lines. I was pleased to see that the range has grown a little and has dedicated space in-store, but it has now been joined by a range of Moomins products: Moomins and Miffy make good shelf buddies.

Rather like seeing characters in TV commercials it is encouraging to see licensed characters and licensing featuring in the Tate Modern. Licensing PLC needs to look beyond the usual suspects and the usual shelves to maintain and even grow business. The museum and gallery sector is a good one to look towards, but in an appropriate way with ranges that fit into that market.

I suspect one of the reasons that the Coronation Street book works is that it has been well written and thought through carefully – a planned approach to business and NPD is essential to future success I think.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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