It was while she was working at the BBC, that Claire Potter realised the power and untapped potential in television brands: “At the time, all of the licensing focus was on pre-school and many great family or grown up series were being overlooked,” she explains.
Potter’s background is in brand management. After taking a degree in law, she joined Unilever’s graduate training scheme with Brooke Bond Foods where she worked for six years before leading the team which launched Chicken Tonight cooking sauces in the UK.
Stints at Golden Wonder and Ladbrokes followed before Potter joined BBC Worldwide as UK marketing director for its combined publishing business, working on TV brands as diverse as Teletubbies, Delia Smith, Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Walking with Dinosaurs and Gardeners’ World.
Metrostar was born in 2004. “I formed Metrostar about six months after the birth of my little boy, George,” Potter explains. “I’d always wanted my own business and learning to look after a tiny baby gave me the confidence to go my own way. I thought that if I can do this, with no previous experience or training, just think what I could do in something that I do know about.”
Metrostar specialises in television and entertainment, while, unusually for a licensing agency, it is also a literary agent. It currently has six titles in development and nearly half of its business is in book publishing. In terms of licensing, Metrostar works with ten clients, with high profile properties including Derek Acorah, Spooks, Life on Mars and its new spin-off series Ashes to Ashes, plus quiz show Win My Wage.
“I think licensing is an incredibly exciting place to be,” says Potter. “There are wonderful brands from all walks of life – TV, sport, food, motoring and publishing – and all manner of areas looking to grow through licensing. This hasn’t always been the case. I was the Oxo brand manager at Unilever for a while, but even though we struggled like mad to extend the appeal of the brand by making gravy granules and herby cubes, we never even considered kitchen utensils. Now there’s a top selling Oxo utensils range, which probably contributes quite a lot to brand perception and bottom line.
“On the other hand, there are too many rather average character-led TV properties masquerading as great brands,” Potter continues. “They shine because they’re on primetime kids TV and have lots of lovely CGI – until the channel replaces them with the next ‘great character-led TV property’.”
Potter believes that this way of managing brands doesn’t encourage innovation amongst licensees, who just end up applying different imagery to the same products.
“You see this at Spring Fair when the lunch boxes and duvet sets are lined up,” she says. “The exception here is the toy industry which really understands how to excite kids. I know they make the margins necessary to make the extra investment in product development worthwhile, but it would be nice to see more examples of real product innovation.”
Potter now has a lot to follow up from Brand Licensing Europe: “I was surprised by the calibre of new IP looking for representation and there are a couple we are taking a serious look at on the publishing side for Metrostar.
“I would love to have some brilliant comedy in our portfolio. We have a few shows in our clients’ pipeline, one of which is so funny I couldn’t drink my tea whilst I was watching the edit. It’s for ITV and I hope I’m not the only one who thinks it’s hilarious.”
And, playing the long game, where does Potter see Metrostar in five years time? “It’s hard to answer,” she muses. “Five years ago Metrostar didn’t even exist. I hope we’re still working with top TV producers and that my car is much nicer. Let’s leave it at that.”