Around the world in 80 days... almost

Guide to the Licensing World chief gives his event highlights of 2010.
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Was 2010 a good year? Well, compared to 2009 probably yes. Is licensing emerging from the recession possibly stronger than before? It depends where you are in the world to a certain extent. Serious questions, to which I don’t claim to have the answers. I have visited most of the main regions this year in my quest for global licensing domination, so ought to be in a position to give an informed opinion. Ought to be. I’ll leave you to make your own mind up…

The year started off with snow, a struggle to get to Heathrow, de-icing of the wings and delayed flights. The move to the beginning of the year for the Hong Kong International Licensing Show to run alongside the HK Toy Fair was a big success. Obvious growth in exhibitor numbers from the previous staging in July 2008, great footfall and impeccable organisation gets the year off to a good start. A new made-to-measure suit in Kowloon rounds off a good start to the year. Managed to avoid being sold a happy ending in Wanchai.

A new event from Advanstar in Budapest saw a very successful launch of Brand Licensing Central and Eastern Europe. Do I feel a franchise coming on? Small but perfectly formed. A warning – stay off the Palinka when in Hungary. Fruit brandy never did anyone any good.
Northern Light Fund Quiz, Manchester. Lots of money raised for worthy causes. I don’t like to mention it, but our team won.

Licensing International Expo (we still call it Licensing Show, don’t we?), Las Vegas. Blistering heat greeted us for the biggest event of the year. The minor teething problems from last year were ironed out, and all the required movers and shakers seemed to be in attendance. Fewer Europeans this time I think, but that was to be expected. I can recommend the helicopter trip into the Grand Canyon. I can’t say that about Virgin Atlantic’s chicken korma on the flight back.

For the second time we exhibited at the Seoul Character Fair. The public days provide a fascinating insight into the local market. Literally thousands of kids (impeccably behaved and not touching anything without permission). You can easily see the popular local characters. Exhibitors cleverly gather data. I can’t see this going down well at BLE in London; the stands would be stripped in minutes. Saw North Korea from a distance, but didn’t bother to visit.

Brand Licensing Europe extends to three days after much debate over the previous couple of years. This is a good move. The dead couple of hours on the last afternoon don’t materialise, as everyone seems to pace themselves a bit better over the course of the show and makes use of all the time. The Advanstar UK team do a really great job and deliver again, although of course, it wouldn’t be anything without all of us, the exhibitors. During the compulsory evening of revelry I discover that a guy I’m dealing with once shot someone. Bizarre. Hope he was in the services at the time.

A first visit to Zagreb for the second Licensing New Europe show. Very well organised and presented, but there’s room for improvement as the pre-registered visitors don’t all materialise. However, with the organisers now also tied in with the newly opened LIMA regional office (and a letter of support from the Croatian President to boot) there is definite potential. We receive another lesson in Croatian networking from our generous hosts, although I wasn’t expecting to end up in an illegal drinking den in the middle of a disused industrial estate. Oh well, when in Rome…
London Light Fund Quiz, Chelsea Football Club. Didn’t do so well. Wore a rugby shirt as a protest at the venue. Lots more money raised.

Last event of the year for us – the Dubai Character and Licensing Fair. Disappointingly after the upwards trend in its second year, the licensing content of the show seems to have dropped off and been replaced by TV content. The positioning a month later in the year to avoid a clash with a big fair in Canton doesn’t hike the visitor numbers as had been hoped. However, local companies are still eager for information and want to do business. I found out how hard it is to get your leg over a camel. Even better, it’s very hot (the weather, not the camel). The sheesha pipes gave me a bit of a throat next morning. Came home to ten inches of snow, which rather rounded the year off nicely as it had started that way. Difficult drive back from Heathrow. Circle complete.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a point to me attending all these events. Give people the information they need to succeed and the money generated by their success should in theory filter its way round the industry and give us all a little bit of the pie. Well, I’ve convinced myself of that, anyway.

I am just about to finish my 15th year in licensing. I do sometimes feel quite privileged. It’s a friendly, social industry and I can count on one hand the number of times someone has been rude to me. Genuinely I can say that I love my job, and for that I feel both lucky and thankful. What’s the point if you can’t have a bit of fun? Of course, I’d rather be in Australia watching the Ashes, so if someone would start a dedicated licensing event down under count me in.

I wish you all a Happy (hopefully licensed) Christmas.

Guide to the Licensing World


Fluid World

Fluid turned out to be very appropriate name for the company formed earlier this year by Hasbro?s licensing director Andrew Lane and former Manchester United licensing chief Tom Howgate.

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