I looked every day, I really did. It was such a temptation, such an invitation. Wide-open, light, ice-cool, beautifully lit. Pale, pale blue, reflective of the London sky this October. Then, finally, I spotted it. Thursday, October 17th, 2.15pm. A two-foot long coffee stain (I’ll leave it to Advanstar's forensics team to identify Americano, Latte or Cappuccino) finally appeared on the striking Brands Zone lobby carpet.
Can I tempt you into considering applying metaphor to this symbolic coffee stain? Dare I raise the rhetorical temperature of this piece by suggesting that the spilled (coffee) beans represent the full and unqualified entry of brands into the Brand Licensing Europe club? Could the coffee further carry weight of evidence of the totally international nature of visitors and exhibitors at BLE? If a Brit had spilled it, surely it would have been a tea stain? Okay, strike the last thought, as 'posh coffee' is national currency these days, too.
Well, for sure you don't get coffee stains where folk don't tread, and the Brands Zone was undoubtedly well trod. The whole show was well trod, as no doubt you saw. Once again, too, visitors to BLE put other trade shows - including the Las Vegas Licensing Expo - to shame by the sheer work ethic of visitor and exhibitor alike. No one 'downed tools' (to use a 1970s trade union expression) until more-or-less exactly 4pm on the last day, the official closing time of the 2013 event. How could it be otherwise, with so much to fit in?
It hardly seems real now that only a few years ago there raged an almost violent debate about possibly moving BLE from a two-day to a three-day show. Strong opinions were voiced on both sides, and it was a live topic for a couple of years. Not now, most assuredly not anymore. A trinity it will stay, though one that looks set to continue its recent fantastic growth.
Before BLE 2013 I predicted impact from digital properties and from brands, and that certainly came to pass in a big way. I'm certain, moreover, that we are still only scratching the surface. My 'Introduction to Licensing and the BLE' session, which opened the Licensing Academy each morning, was once again very busy with licensing newbies. People want to know about this mysterious world of ours. As brands and digital properties take a higher profile, so will businesses unconnected to entertainment, the sector that has dominated UK licensing to date, find themselves drawn in. You know (Lowe boys excluded, for obvious reasons) there were even blokes at BLE 2013 wearing jackets louder than mine. Is this a trend in itself? Perhaps I'd better buy something black to stand out next year.
As the years go by, and age starts to catch up on us, we can have some excuse for feeling tired towards the end of any trade show. This was hardly as issue last week, as the sheer verve of the show and all its satellite presentations, launches and just good-time party events drove us relentlessly, excitedly forwards to the next day, the next hour, the next meeting.
The launch party for the Licensing Power List was a fine example: we looked forward to it, we enjoyed the night and the list-reveal, we sprang forward into the rest of BLE 2013 on the back of it.
What a time to be joining this tremendous industry of hours: I almost envy the newcomers who are just drawing back the curtains and peeking to see that licensing can bring them. Almost envy, because 30-year veterans like me can look back at where we were all those years ago, and see where we are now, and wonder why it seemed so hard in 1981 to choose a winning licence – compared to today. One thing's for sure, London is fast reaching the point where it can claim to be the true home of international licensing, and Brand Licensing Europe 2013 was another milestone on that road.