The former Carlton Cards man talks us through his career in the licensing business...
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Ged Backland

Time spent in licensing industry:
Ten years on and off. Me and my wife Kaely have been lucky enough to either create or re-design some of the industries biggest greetings card related licences. These include Bubblegum, Forever Friends and Purple Ronnie.

First job in licensing:
As creative director and co-creator of Bubblegum for Carlton Cards I fell into licensing by default. We ended up being nominated for a LIMA award (which we won). And ended up meeting a whole bunch of fantastic and fascinating people. The bar afterwards was like the bar in Star Wars (you know who you are Chewbacca).

What were your responsibilities?
Working with the inspirational Debbie Lewin, the product development director for Clinton Cards. We put together a programme of gifts that made Bubblegum the fun High Street brand of the late 90’s.

Current job in licensing:
We own The Backland Studio – whose brands are GoochiCoo, Scarlett and Crimson which we jointly own with Coolabi (how great is Janet Woodward?!), Aunt Acid, Vincent (The bear with one lughole), Suga Lumps and Grumpy Old Gits.

What are your responsibilities?
Making tea for ‘The Girls’ and cooking something special for lunch for the weekly Friday Feast (this week they are getting lobster with a marscapone and lime sauce on bed of rocket and squid ink spaghetti). In between that developing the editorial voice of our characters and making sure everyone is happy.

What is your greatest achievement so far?
For us both it is leaving the comfort of a creative directors position at a large company and to set up a character creation studio that actually makes you a living. This just pips at the post getting Alan Brooke, Carlton Cards licensing executive, to buy me a drink – once. Alan, legendary for his parsimony (he actually installed double glazing into his house so his kids couldn’t hear the ice cream van), still mentions it every time I see him.

What is the best licence you have worked on so far in your career?
I really enjoyed taking on the creative challenge to re-invigorate Purple Ronnie in greetings cards. It was great to work with one of the industries top character creators Giles Andreae. The biggest buzz was seeing what many people considered a property past its sell by date soar to new heights.

What licence would you most like to have in your portfolio?
On a personal level Cartoon Networks' Cow and Chicken. If I’d have created that then I would be a proud and happy man. Commercially, Harry Potter would be nice.

If you could choose your dream job in licensing, what would it be and why?
Licensing Executive for Lionel Richie, because I’d never get tired of picking up the phone when it rang saying “Hello – Is it me you’re looking for?’

What's the best thing about working in the licensing business?
The people – the Janet Woodwards, the Trevor Joneses and the Ian Hyders of this world – are shining examples of how business, even in a competitive industry like licensing, can have integrity.


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