The Born legacy: Born Licensing talks European expansion and that Action Man advert

Born Licensing is heading to Las Vegas Licensing Expo to unveil a slate of new ad campaigns. Can they compare to the Action Man Moneysupermarket ad? Born Licensing's director, David Born tells all...
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If you’ve caught yourself whistling along to the tune of CeCe Peniston’s 'Finally' over the last couple of months while strutting down the high street, you can likely lay the blame firmly at the door of one man.

Similarly, if the sight of He-Man and Skeletor gracing the dancefloor has impressed upon you enough to permeate conversations with your Uber driver or Deliveroo courier, again, there’s only one man to thank.

That man is David Born, director at Born Licensing the very same that takes credit for facilitating Action Man’s on-screen appearance in the latest MoneySuperMarket advert and convincing He-Man to limber up for his two minute dance routine before it.

action man

This is the field in which Born operates; it’s not a typical licensing agent. It doesn’t work with consumer product licensees and retailers, instead Born and the team focus on securing licensing deals in the advertising and marketing space. It’s just passed the $100 million mark in terms of media value and spent the last four years engaging with that community and raising the profile of how characters and clips can be licensed for their campaigns.

“Most agencies we speak to have an appetite for licensing, but are a bit unsure of where to start and who to talk to,” Born tells Licensing.biz. “They have a great sense of comfort knowing that they can work with us, as the ones who understand both the licensing and advertising spaces well.

“We have found that our approach excites both the advertising and licensing communities. The ad world is thrilled to be able to develop scripts that leverage entertainment IP and the licensing community loves to see their properties being used so creatively. They also love the new revenue stream that it creates.”

As a result, Born Licensing has just emerged from its biggest year to date, having worked on campaigns such as the He-Man ad, working with Mattel throughout the process as well as the creation of Boost Lee, a character inspired by Bruce Lee as well as saw the Action Man advert – in which the ‘greatest hero of them all’ is found dancing to Peniston’s pop classic.

“Those campaigns for Moneysupermarket have definitely been the most high profile deals we have signed over the last 12 months,” Born says. “these are so well written and executed that, teamed with a chunky media spend, they have become Britain’s favourite ads on television.”

skeletor

They have also only been just part of Born Licensing’s big 2017/18. Earlier this year, the outfit moved into its new office in West London’s Hammersmith and welcomed the addition of a new licensing coordinator in the form of Naomi Smith. Business certainly appears to be booming for Born Licensing.

“Born Licensing is growing,” continues Born.

“Naomi has joined as licensing coordinator and executive assistant. She got a taste of the wonderful and wacky licensing world while doing an internship at Mattel, working on properties like Barbie, Fireman Sam and Thomas and Friends.

“She will help create some much-needed bandwidth here and one of her main focuses will be on brand assurance and approvals, which is critically important to stay on top of due to tight production timelines. Having Naomi on board is a key part in achieving our ambitious growth plans.”

Those who have followed its journey will know that Born Licensing was created in Melbourne, Australia in 2014. Having moved to London more than two years ago, the firm is now looking to spread its wings across other European markets.

“Amsterdam is a big city in the advertising space, so we have already engaged with all of those agencies and signed deals with T Mobile, Facebook and Instagram from those relationships,” explains Born.

“We have also already visited Berlin and met with a range of leading agencies. By the time this is published, we would have met with agencies in Paris too. We have our eyes set on Scandinavia, Italy, Spain as well as key CEE markets. We also have high hopes to engage with South America at some point. We are also exploring over the coming months and years options in getting feet on the ground in key markets.”

He-Man and Action Man aside, the team has also been behind some major campaigns for Ovo Power and Boost Power, social media platforms Facebook and Instagram and the telco company, BT. But there’s no resting, and Born tells Licensing.biz that it now has some ‘very exciting campaigns in the pipeline for the months to come.’

Of course, signed NDAs mean that Born would be required to flee the country were he to reveal the nature of these campaigns, as is the clandestine world of advertising. However the licensing director is looking forward to detailing all at this year’s licensing show.

That pipeline, as guarded as it is, is only destined to grow, too, insists Born, highlighting that the area of licensing in which he operates boasts a lot of room for continued expansion.

“We know that the biggest focus for licensors and agencies is revenue, and so it should be,” continues Born. “We have delivered millions of dollars of revenue in fees to the licensing world, which we believe is incremental to their existing business. I truly believe that most of the deals we have signed would not have materialised if we weren’t involved.

“Interest in Action Man product has increased thanks to the Moneysupermarket campaign, as it did with He-Man and Skeletor.

“We feel there is a lot of room for continued growth in this area, though it is quite challenging to predict as there aren’t any royalties reported, just flat fees.

“But brands an agencies absolutely want to work with us more. They love writing scripts with iconic characters, and so often we have found ourselves keeping opportunities alive at crucial early stages when a script can be scrapped because it ‘sounds too difficult to execute’, or it will ‘be too expensive.’ But we make it work.”

So what is on the horizon for Born Licensing in this space? Well, it’s a move into the traditional licensing space next, of course.

“We’re working on a few unique projects that fall into the advertising and marketing space, but also cross over into other more traditional areas of licensing,” says Born.

“I have a lot of experience in other areas of licensing, one of which is starting to become an itch that I have to scratch…”

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