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The Licensing Lookout: A magic collaboration

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes spots a new twist on a classic movie being used by Halifax.

Even after 25 years in the industry some licensing deals can still stop me in my tracks and make me think ‘how was that possible?’.

Last week a TV commercial caught my attention in this way. I think I know how it was possible from a technical and deal making viewpoint, but it was a deal that I was surprised to see happening because of the content used.

There is a trend at the moment for film clips and licensed characters to be used in TV commercials. Recently Action Man and He-Man have featured in TV spots.

The Halifax has been at the forefront of this with its use of characters such as Top Cat and The Flintstones. However I think it has surpassed itself with its latest commercial and set the bar very high for the future. The new commercial features a clip from iconic film The Wizard of Oz. The ad features a Halifax employee Greg advising Dorothy and her friends about home ownership and eventually how to get home once he deduces Dorothy is too young to get a mortgage.


I was surprised to see such an iconic film as the Wizard of Oz being used in this context, but on first viewing it seems to be a very effective use of the characters. I think it will attract a lot of attention for the advertiser and help them reach new customers. I am not sure what sort of fee would have been paid to access the clip, but I suspect it was at a level that made the deal worthwhile.

It may also have needed further clearances from the actors’ estates but even if it didn’t I suspect it took a while to get the deal done. Such a high profile clip use could spark further interest in the film and the characters. This may lead onto other licensing opportunities.

The creative work and styling is of a very high standard and from a qualitative point of view very sympathetic to the classic film.

The commercial may encourage other IP owners to consider clip licensing even for their more iconic films. I am sure some companies are now thinking if it is okay for The Wizard of Oz then maybe it will be okay for our film classics. A film of this calibre is a weighty testimonial to point to.

It will be interesting to see if there is any negativity around the use of the clip. When tapping into a film with such a heritage there is always a balance to be struck and there has to be careful consideration about public opinion on using classic films in such a way. A legacy has to be protected.

So far so good though as the advertising trade press seem to be supportive of the commercial – this is normally a good benchmark for public opinion.


Connected with this, a Coca-Cola billboard advertisement using Elvis Presley also caught my attention. In this case I thought the artwork style and layout was very strong, delivering a new spin on a well known Elvis ‘pose’. It also seemed a well matched pairing of two American icons.

Coca-Cola has used the strapline: ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to. We do’. The billboard first appeared around the time that the Sugar Tax on soft drinks came into force and it may be that this in part inspired the strapline.

Rather like the use of Wizard of Oz, I guess that Elvis Presley Enterprises will have thought carefully about this partnership but would also have recalled that Elvis has been used by Coca-Cola in advertising before. This prior association would have counted favourably in the assessment I guess.

Design wise I think this new work will help reset how people may see Elvis and encourage licensees to think afresh from a design point of view. As well as protecting a legacy, brand owners are also looking to find ways of refreshing things and a deal with Coca-Cola will certainly help in this regard.


Celebrity licensing seems to be on the increase and Specsavers has embraced it. It currently features an exclusive eyewear range developed in association with Kylie Minogue. The range has launched to coincide with Kylie’s new single and some high profile PR for her.

This well timed partnership works well for both parties in terms of maximising its reach and impact. Being featured in high street retail windows is not a bad thing for a pop artist and is a novel way of gaining attention to support your music.

As far as I am aware Kylie doesn’t feature in a Specsavers TV commercial yet… although I am sure Specsavers would love to see that happen.


Opticians and eyewear firms are not afraid of tapping into licensing and using brands – across the road from the Specsavers branch where I spotted Kylie there was an independent opticians showcasing a range of Ted Baker spectacle frames. Fashion and lifestyle brands seem to be well used in this sector – I guess they are chosen for their recognition factor, the fact that they can command a premium price and they deliver on the trend aspect of brands.

The London Stationery Show, which took place last week, featured a number of companies that were marketing licensed products in their ranges, but in many ways it was also a timely reminder that licensing isn’t the only option open to manufacturers. I think in many ways it was a licensing lite show. Not a criticism just an observation and a measure that licensing still has room to grow and gain recognition.

A number of the exhibitors at the show weren’t well disposed to licensing as it didn’t fit their business models. New business is also about knowing when to move on.


However, one of the highlights at the show was a range of Shaeffer pens featuring Star Wars – these were presented in a stylish way that should up the age appeal of the brand and tap into an older consumer market effectively. This I guess recognises that fan demographics can change as an entertainment brand gets older. Not all Star Wars fans want to buy t-shirts.

It was also encouraging to see a well established company like Museums & Galleries tapping into brands such as the London Transport Museum to develop its ranges and really backing licensing. It also finds opportunities outside the mainstream seemingly nurturing partnerships with a broad range of brand owners from the sector which keeps the design range fresh and interesting. Although there is only so much space in the portfolio and on retail shelves…

I may need to find another trade show to find new business opportunities at this week. Or maybe I should just watch a few old movies…

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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