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Why using licences in ads is a global business

From VW and Star Wars in the US to Sesame Street for the Australian census, Born Licensing’s David Born takes a look.

Most of us licensing professionals no doubt sit up and take notice when we see a licensed property appear in an advertising campaign.

Muppets selling crumpets? GREAT! The Cookie Monster plugging Apple’s Siri ? BRILLIANT! The NeverEnding Story marketing Spotify? RAD! The Brady Bunch advertising Snickers? DELICIOUS!

Over the coming months I’ll be writing about these and many more from all over the globe to showcase how the advertising world is tapping into licensing.

Who could have possibly missed The Muppets taking over the Warburtons Christmas ad last year? The Giant Crumpet Show got the UK talking and was hailed the festive favourite for 2015, according to research carried out by Millward Brown. It has racked up a whopping 3.3 million views on YouTube and scored a lot of attention amongst social media and press.

Using brands in this way can be hugely beneficial for the advertiser, as they leverage existing brand equity, tap into emotional connections and get people talking.

Back in 2011 I’m sure you experienced on a number of occasions someone asking “have you seen the Star Wars Volkswagen ad?”. It premiered during Superbowl and is considered one of the greatest of all time, securing over 61 million views on YouTube alone. Although it only aired in the US, it created enormous interest globally.

The wonderful thing about licensing in advertising is that there is a place for all types properties. In consumer products licensing, most of the trends are about brands that are hot right now. When licensing is used in advertising, it is more about the brand that is most suitable for the campaign. It might be a movie, a TV show, an animation, a video game, a board game, a toy or a comic book brand.

A great example is the Halifax campaigns from earlier this year, which starred the characters from Top Cat and The Flintstones – discussed by my fellow columnist, Richard Pink, here.

These brands are certainly not leading brands in the consumer products landscape, but they seem to have fitted the brief for this campaign quite well.

Another example is one that my company Born Licensing has just launched in Australia with Hasbro and Subaru (above). G.I. Joe certainly isn’t the most in demand property in consumer products at the moment, but it did perfectly suit this ‘do something out of the box’ campaign.

Nostalgic brands are incredibly popular in this area, as are classic movies and TV shows. In fact, the first ever Apple iPhone commercial featured 31 movie and TV show clips. Premiering during the 2007 Academy Awards, it was the first impression many consumers had with the now incredibly popular iPhone.

Not only can this area be great in terms of licensing revenue, but it’s also a great brand positioning opportunity. It allows consumers to engage with the property in a different way. Take this ad from the US for Verizon. Preschool brand Yo Gabba Gabba is used not to appeal to children, but instead to tap into what the brand means to adults.

Another example is Sesame Street’s Count von Count starring in a recent Australian ad campaign encourage Queenslanders to ensure they are counted in the upcoming Census.

Totally random or complete genius? Whatever your view, it was a great way to make an incredibly boring call to action a bit more interesting and memorable.

We’re keeping an eye out for ways brands have been leveraged in advertising and marketing campaigns from around this world. If you spot any brands in advertising you can tweet me @bornlicensing.

David Born is director of Born Licensing – a licensing agent focused solely on licensing for the purpose of advertising and marketing. He can be contacted at

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