Start Licensing’s Ian Downes has his Lookout attentions caught by a variety of examples of ‘live licensing’ this week.
Inspired by Brand Licensing Europe’s recent announcement that its 2023 show theme centres on Location Based Experiences my Lookout attention was caught by ‘live licensing’ this week. Licensing is popping up in a very diverse range of ‘live experiences’ these days and it does seem to be an area of licensing that is in growth.
I have mentioned before that I have a permit to mudlark on the Thames foreshore. Every so often I pop down to see what I can find – being on the foreshore gives you a unique perspective of the River Thames and generally you can get away from the world of licensing while mudlarking. Not this time though. Mid dig I caught sight of the Horrible Histories Terrible Thames sightseeing boat turning on the Thames just past Tower Bridge. I could hear a little of the jaunty commentary from my vantage point. It seemed very entertaining and engaging. Slightly frustratingly I didn’t hear the end of the story being told by the tour guide.
I have seen the boat before and think that the tour has been running for a while now. It seems to be a success story. It is a great way of bringing the Horrible Histories alive and adding to the reading experience the book series provide. I can also see how the Horrible Histories brand is a great opportunity for the tour company to develop a product that directly appeals to families with children. The majority of river cruises are general sightseeing ones with generic themes and standard routes. This is bespoke tour targeting families and delivers a fresh experience. A great example of live licensing.
On my way to my mudlarking spot I passed by the South Bank Centre. It was interesting to see some of the shows and events that were being promoted there. Two that caught my eye in particular were The Gruffalo stage show and Aladdin Sane: 50 Years – an exhibition that celebrates David Bowie’s iconic album.
These are two good examples of the variety of activity and IPs being used in the ‘live licensing’ space.
There has, of course, been a long tradition of successful children’s books being adapted for stage and this seems a natural development for a successful publishing property. Likewise, music and exhibitions go hand in hand.
Underlining the link between publishing properties and stage productions, I spotted a promotion for an Open Air Theatre production of David Walliams’ Bad Dad at a National Trust property recently as well. Venues like National Trust sites are a key driver of productions like this and also for exhibitions – the rationale for hosting events like this seems to be finding ways of drawing in new audiences and specifically younger visitors. Licensed content can help operators such as the National Trust deliver new visitors. Theatres and entertainment centres are also tuned into this as well.
A good example of this is the spring/summer programme for the G Live venue in Guildford. A number of the shows that were being previewed in G Live’s brochure were IP driven ones. Featured shows include Milkshake Live. This show is a compilation one featuring a number of characters including Noddy, Paddington and Blue’s Clues. The show is also presented by Milkshake presenters, further cementing the link with the TV programming block. Horrible Histories also features – this time with the Barmy Britain stage show. There is also a Fireman Sam Live show scheduled.
Interestingly, and to emphasise the diversity of content in this sector, G Live will also be staging Steve Backshall Ocean: Bringing Marine Dreams to Life. TV presenter Steve Backshall presents a show that brings together stunts, TV footage, props and on-stage experiments tapping into his expert knowledge. This is a good example of how TV personalities are becoming ‘brands’ in the live events space.
Museums are also tapping up IP to add another dimension to their exhibitions programme. Again the motivation is to attract new audiences, but also to encourage repeat visits. It is also a proactive way of museums, particularly specialist museums, to add another dimension to their permanent collections and also to underline their expertise in a category.
A good example of this is London’s Cartoon Museum currently running an exhibition centred on the artist and illustrator Norman Thelwell’s work. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of Thelwell’s birth. It showcases a range of his work including The Effluent Society, a book published in 1971. The book looked at our impact on nature – given current concerns the book and Thelwell’s work have a contemporary relevance. The Cartoon Museum celebrates the work of cartoonists and illustrators so it is a logical place to host an exhibition of this kind.
A measure of the Museum’s commitment to using IP is that it also currently has an exhibition celebrating the work of Gerry Anderson and is also pre-promoting a Wallace & Gromit exhibition which will be on site later in the year. The Cartoon Museum is blending IP driven ‘special exhibitions’ with its permanent collection to drive new and repeat visits. These shows also generate PR for the museum and allow them to tell their story in new ways. They also create new opportunities for on-site merchandise and foster new commercial connections for them.
It was also interesting to see how well known characters appear on the walls of Waterloo’s Leake Street – this is a location that is a popular destination site and location for street art. I regularly wander through the street to see what new work is on show.
This week I noticed a couple of character lead works – one featuring the Pink Panther and the other a Garfield ‘mash up’. Both noteworthy pieces of street art and a good reminder of how characters are playing a part in pop culture – another sign that licensing has a role to play in the experiential world, even in the underground world of street art.
Finally, and to further endorse BLE’s category focus, I am off to Bristol this week and am booked in to ‘experience’ the Wallace & Gromit Escape Room that opened recently. This is another good example of how IP can play a role in emerging areas of the entertainment sector.
Hopefully I will find my way out in time for my next Lookout!
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.