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The Licensing Lookout: Old friends, new ventures

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes reunites with two old licensing friends this week.

It was good to see two old licensing friends enjoying themselves this week.

The two friends concerned were Aardman’s classic character Morph, while the other is puzzle and game manufacturer Gibsons.

Clip licensing, where characters, TV or film footage are featured in advertising, is a licensing activity that is receiving some good coverage at the moment. Using well known characters or footage can create instant impact for a campaign, drive social media engagement and add promotional weight to a campaign. For brand owners it helps dial up awareness of a property, provokes fresh thinking and, of course, unlocks new revenues.

It is a form of licensing that has a long history, but the modern cluttered media landscape has helped renew interest in this licensing genre, not least because of the visibility a well curated campaign can enjoy.

Morph is featuring in a series of TV ads, poster campaigns and print ads for Tesco.
Morph is featuring in a series of TV ads, poster campaigns and print ads for Tesco.

Morph is featuring in a series of TV commercials, poster campaigns and print adverts being run by Tesco. The campaign is centring on Tesco calling out and celebrating 100 years of “great value”. It is promoting a range of special price offers. It has chosen characters and personalities that reinforce the campaign and help consumers look back in time.

The campaign slogan is ‘prices that take you back’. Certain products are being sold at discounted prices during the promotion. Morph and his pal Chas were chosen I think because they are timeless, iconic and will resonate with a significant part of Tesco’s target market. They also put a smile on people’s faces – no bad thing.

Other personalities featured in this campaign are Wolf from Gladiators, Anneka Rice, conjuring up her Treasure Hunt programme, and Mr Motivator.

The latter personality reminded me of the time I met him when I was at CPL. We were talking about representing him. Mr Motivator was a very high profile celebrity with a regular slot on breakfast TV – he presented high action fitness classes. Anyway at the meeting he challenged me to a press up competition – this was before the meeting started – I declined as I figured I was in a no win situation. Imagine if he had beaten me!

Hype's Morph greeting cards were spotted in Bristol's M Shed gift shop.
Hype's Morph greeting cards were spotted in Bristol's M Shed gift shop.

I think Tesco has created a campaign that has achieved cut-through and is being talked about. Morph has helped catch people’s attention – the style of advertising has made people stop and look. Of course, it should create fresh momentum for Morph licensees – a good example of this was that I spotted Hype’s Morph greeting cards this week at Bristol’s M Shed gift shop – displayed in the centre of the shop on a well filled spinner.

Gibsons is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It is a family owned business which is focused on its core product areas of games and puzzles. I have worked with the company for over 20 years and have always found them to be easy to deal with. Licensing is part of its business offer, but it is blended with non-licensed lines plus a number of products that are developed in conjunction with artists and illustrators.

Gibsons has invested in custom packaging such as the signature Marmite jar.
Gibsons has invested in custom packaging such as the signature Marmite jar.

What I like about Gibsons – beyond its approach to building long-standing partnerships – is that it has made a real effort to look afresh at licensing and how it can help sustain its business. It recognised that well chosen licences coupled with fresh thinking NPD could help create new opportunities in gifting while developing new distribution.

It has used a range of brand licences such as Volkswagen, Pringles and Marmite to create new products. It has invested in custom packaging such as the signature Marmite jar. This has paid off and has brought new impetus for the company. It has blended this move with a continued commitment to more standard puzzles.

Indeed we are working with it on a range of puzzles based on the Land of Lost Content archive co-curated by designer Wayne Hemingway.  Wayne and his team designed the puzzles which was a smooth process on both sides and was a good case study of how licensing can be a real partnership.

Gibsons celebrated its anniversary at the Museum of London, one of my favourite museums which made a good evening even better and it was nice to hear Kate Gibson talk about the company, its history and their future. It is good to see the firm flourish and to know licensing has played a part in its success.

Pringles is just one of the licences that Gibsons works with.
Pringles is just one of the licences that Gibsons works with.

Finally I attended The Greats gift retailer awards this week. We sponsored an award to highlight BlissHome’s Nadiya Make Life Colourful homewares range. Hopefully this tactic worked as the room was packed with retail buyers. It was a lovely event and what struck me was the sense of optimism among the buyers.

I talked to quite a few buyers and, while they acknowledged times are challenging, there was also a sense of drive and determination to succeed. This gave me cause for optimism and reassured me that there are opportunities for licensed ranges in retail. They just have to have a purpose, add value and deliver an audience.

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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