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Brands are missing out on the power of fictional characters in advertising

New white paper from Born Licensing shows how powerful fictional characters can be for creating effective brand campaigns.

78% of the UK public say that Wonder Woman would be more likely to capture their attention in an advertisement than her celebrity counterpart, Gal Gadot – so why do fictional characters feature in just 1.1% of UK advertising?

This is the question being asked as part of a new white paper from Born Licensing, which addresses the under-utilisation of fictional characters in advertising and how powerful they can be for creating effective brand campaigns.

A Case for Characters: How Fictional Characters Are Under-Utilised in Advertising – which is available to download from Born Licensing’s website from today (8 March) – addresses why we saw fictional characters in just 1.1% of UK advertising in 2018-2020, despite 38% of the UK public stating that they ‘most like’ to see fictional characters in advertising, compared to 22% favouring celebrities, 22% favouring musicians and 18% favouring sports stars.

It covers three core areas:

  • How fictional characters are under-utilised in advertising
  • Why fictional characters are under-utilised in advertising
  • What needs to change in order to see advertisers utilise fictional characters more


Born Licensing – which has worked on a range of high profile advertising campaigns which used fictional characters including Direct Line’s ‘We’re On It’ campaign featuring Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Robocop and Bumblebee from Transformers – conducted extensive research to create the paper, commissioning Ipsos MORI to help understand the public’s perception of fictional characters in advertising and conducting their own qualitative and quantitative research within the advertising industry.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with fictional characters for almost 15 years,” commented David Born, director and founder of Born Licensing. “Time and time again I’ve witnessed the power they can bring to content, merchandise and advertising. This report demonstrates the extent in which characters are untapped in the advertising space, and the huge opportunity that is available.

“Our mission is to see fictional characters in advertising as often as celebrities, musicians and sports stars. Although we’ve had the pleasure of working on some brilliant campaigns featuring fictional characters, our research shows that there is a significant demand still not being met.”

Amber Cheung, senior licensing executive at Born Licensing, continued: “This paper is the first of its kind and we hope it brings real change to how advertising agencies and brands approach working with fictional characters.

“The effectiveness of characters in advertising is undeniable and this paper is a crucial first step to encouraging brands, advertisers and creatives to fully harness their power.”

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