THE BIG INTERVIEW: Darren Brechin, Event Director, Brand Licensing Europe

We find out more about this year's new-look industry showcase from the new man at the helm.
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Why have you zoned the BLE show floor this year?

For two reasons. First, responding to feedback from visitors over many years, we’ve made the show easier to navigate so visitors can find the types of brands they want. Second, we’ve done it to expand the exhibitor and visitor base by attracting new types of visitors and exhibitors to the show floor.

What’s been the feedback from exhibitors?

Overall, very positive. The change has allowed a number of Character and Entertainment exhibitors to expand into prime space. And brand exhibitors are pleased because they will get far more exposure for what they do than they did when they were included in the mix. Corporate brands often have smaller stands, often very different requirements to Character and Entertainment brands.

What does it mean for exhibitors?

I hope it means they will have more time to spend with quality buyers from their sectors. It’s also attracted more exhibitors, including some that might not have come before.

Why will it be better for visitors?

It allows for more efficient organisation of their time. Regular visitors will find some very new things to discover upstairs this year. We’ve not just segmented the floor plan but also the marketing plan so we’re talking about the different components of BLE to specific visitors interested in those zones.

Will the Brands and Design zones be a little quiet upstairs?

No! I don’t anticipate them being quiet at all. When you come through the doors you’ll be in no doubt that something exciting is going on upstairs this year. As well as directional signage and branding, you’ll notice two temporary staircases clearly visible along the central aisle when you enter. One leads directly to the Brands areas and the other to the Art, Design and Illustration area. We have also removed all advertising on the gallery rails, which overlook the Grand Hall, and replaced it with signage, all the way round. The rails will now feature brands, names and imagery from the exhibitors upstairs like a visual gallery of what you can find up the stairs. There’s also a lovely feature in the entrance to the brand zone, visible from below, which you’ll have to wait until October to see.

What’s the first thing visitors will notice when they come into the show this year?

That they won’t be able to escape upstairs! From the moment you step onto the ‘Welcome’ tile you’ll know the time and investment we’ve made to encourage visitors to the three distinct zones.

Any exciting new exhibitors to tell us about?

We’re very glad to welcome Rovio, Discovery, Rizon, WWF, Pokemon, our first Russian pavilion and many more.

Will there be any celebrities attending this year?

Wait and see...

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Is the show floor now sold out?

Nearly. Segmenting the show floor has grown the show. We are about 80 per cent sold but the show’s total footprint is looking around 20 per cent larger already this year.

How many companies have signed up?

We currently have 220 stands on the floor plan which probably represents more than 300 companies.

How many visitors did you attract last year?

Our total attendance for 2012 was 9,108.

Do you feel the pressure in your first year to live up to this?

Yes, of course. From an event director’s point of view it’s more challenging to take on a successful show and enhance it than it is to fix a failing show. But it’s a good challenge; a positive pressure.

What’s been the most fun thing about working with BLE so far?

Learning about the industry, which is so much fun and so diverse, and meeting the people working in it. I love the fact you can move from a conversation about a top children’s cartoon to one about how to get a racing car into Olympia.

What are you most looking forward to at the show this year?

Seeing the new floor plan come to life. It’s been hard work developing these zones and it will be great so see them in action.

What trends do you think will be strong this year?

There will be more consumer brands at the show this year and I think this will come across strongly. I think we’ll continue to see the impact of brands that start life as digital content. Taking digital brands into traditional animation comes up a lot in our conversations at the moment. It’s also very interesting to have a Russian pavilion this year.

Who are the keynote speakers?

Wait and see! We usually announce these in early September and are in some very interesting discussions now.

How economically robust do you think the licensing industry is?

From what I’ve seen in the short time I’ve been working in it, it seems very robust. Europe has been in a major recession and yet the show has grown. It’s a testament to the fact people see how licensing is a very credible way to grow their business and to get their concepts out to the market.

What’s your long-term vision for BLE?

The new floor plan is the first step of our long-term vision for the show. It’s the first time in 15 years that the show has been divided up and it means we can now dig deeper into Art, Design and Illustration, Brands, and Character and Entertainment to attract more exhibitors and visitors in those sectors. Our aim is to serve all aspects of the licensing industry. There might be some growing pains but this year’s move is the start of something that will ensure the show has a much bigger, stronger future.


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