MY LIFE IN LICENSING: Paul Comben

He swapped selling ad space in a famous newspaper for selling unknown brands and licences instead, working with a mouse and a frog on the way. And he once wished he could be as cool as Vanilla Ice...
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Name:
Paul Comben (owner of a German Shepherd dog).

Time spent in licensing industry:
18 years. Ice Ice Baby was number one in the music charts. I wished I was as cool as Vanilla Ice, but nowadays I have a higher profile.

First job in licensing:
From ad sales at The Observer, I switched to licensing executive in Universal Studios' then new international licensing office, which had been set up in London by Keith Isaac. I knew nothing about licensing and I did not know any licensees nor retailers. However, Keith had agreed an over-inflated rent on offices in Hammersmith, so he kept screaming at me for revenue loud enough to make me go and meet them all.

What were your responsibilities?
To build a UK licensing programme for that much-loved and well remembered movie An American Tail II: Fievel Goes West. I remember being very relieved when it snoweed so heavily in February 1991 that noone could go to work for two days. That's how tough it was.

Current job in licensing:
Running AT New Media, the world's only licensing consultancy specialising in interactive digital media.

What are your responsibilities?
Winning and keeping enough business to fund my colleagues' passion for tea and biscuits.

What is your greatest achievement so far?
Professionally: pioneering the future trail for the licensing industry by grasping and explaining how new media removes many of the frustrations presented by traditional media. Personally: Giving up alcohol for two months to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

What is the best licence you have worked on so far in your career?
Crazy Frog. It is the only hot property to come my way and the difference between licensing that and Fievel Mouse was absolute. It also proved that new characters can, and will, emerge from new media.

What licence would you most like to have in your portfolio?
Every year, the one that all of the licensees and retailers desperately want right now.

If you could choose your dream job in licensing, what would it be and why?
I would like an endless string of speaking engagements and non executive directorships, being paid silly sums to advise companies on how to make the most of new licensing opportunities opened up by new media.

What's the best thing about working in the licensing industry?
My answer is the same of most of the interviewees: chasing approvals and royalties. Oh no, sorry, I meant the people, the parties and being involved in the wide variety of categories.

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