As the world descends on the Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., June 12-14, for the Licensing Expo, I wonder which trends, brands and "takeaways" will filter back to Europe from the notebooks of visitors. There will, of course, be stories of scale and cultural juxtaposition only possible in Las Vegas.
Traditionally there has been the ongoing conversation about the might of American brands and entertainment as European licensees and licensors return home with refreshed ambitions to "break" the U.S. market, gaining access to its 300 million consumers. Licensing Expo is the melting pot of international licensing, after all. But this year the trends and aspirations will take into account new brand types and territories beyond entertainment and beyond the U.S.
Russia and China can't be ignored for their scale and attraction to branded goods. And brands stemming from non-traditional entertainment media such as social media games and smartphone apps have broken through into the mainstream consumer products space and are competing with TV and film brands for consumer spend. The licensing net is widening.
When a press announcement is released concerning Angry Birds or Talking Friends or another such digital property, it often contains the names of licensees that are completely new to the market. It's very refreshing.
David Michel, co-founder of Marathon Media who discusses the 10-year-old TV series "Totally Spies" in this issue, suggests that there are only two sorts of children's programs–local ones and American ones. Both have huge appeal in any one market, but he observes that there is little room for anything trying to be a hybrid of the two. It's the same with a brand. Consumers want a piece of the global picture, and at the same time, they want their distinctive regional preferences catered to. Social media is shrinking the world on the one hand, and making local customization even more essential on the other. As one commentator mused this month: is it wise to try to launch a new kid's show globally? Why not learn the lessons from one territory before starting in another? Why not tailor the launch to specific markets?
In this issue, there are two stories from Europe that show what happens when a local operation does decide to go global–in other words to go American. "Totally Spies" is intended to look like an American show, but it was commissioned by French broadcaster TF1 and is utterly French. We talked to its co-creator, Michel, about what makes it still such a pioneering series.
The Belgium-based Studio 100 produces children's live action and animated TV series that are best known in the Benelux market. It also produces books, live shows, theme parks and even cookies within a unique business model that works well in the region's relatively small market. However, its ambitions are grander. Studio 100 is already in collaboration with Nickelodeon for the tween live action series, "House of Anubis," and is about to re-launch three preschool brands that have been on-air in Europe since the 1970s, the first of which is "Maya the Bee." The U.S. market isn't familiar with the series yet, but 216 licensees are already on board around the world.
This issue of License! Global also carries the first official preview of Brand Licensing Europe 2012. The event, to be held Oct. 16-18 in London, has confirmed that Disney Consumer Products and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are both exhibiting this year. The event is shaping up to be another highly productive, multi-national marketplace with a larger-than-ever show floor and the return of the Screening Suite and the Retail Mentoring Programme. Registration is open now, at www.brandlicensing.eu.