I've just come back from a new date in the calendar, a licensing conference in Helsinki, the first ever such event in Finland.

Postcard from Helsinki

Now we’re into March, a serious dent has been put into the trade fair calendar by many of us, hopefully increasing our fitness as we pound the miles of booths at London Toy Fair, Nuremberg, Spring Fair, Kidscreen and the many others that vie for our attention.

I’ve just come back from a new date in the calendar, a licensing conference in Helsinki, the first ever such event in Finland, organised by AGMA, the Association of Agents and Managers in Creative Industries.

I have to confess that I had little insight into Finland before the trip. I’ve signed many a licensing deal for Scandinavia (as we used to call the whole area) or the Nordic markets (which seems to be the description of choice these days) but have seldom looked at Finland on its own.

AGMA certainly got their act together for the first conference, that’s for sure. Attracting a range of local and international speakers, they scored, in my view, quite a coup, by getting two members of the Finnish government – a minister and a special adviser – to address the 150 delegates who signed up for the day. Getting such front-line state support for licensing is rare enough for this in itself to be remarkable.

Most of the conference was conducted in the local language which, I learned, bears little similarity to Danish, Swedish or Norwegian, being more closely related to Hungarian than the other Nordic tongues. Myself, and speakers from Plus Licens and Ink, two of the most prominent agencies in the region, addressed the assembly in English.

Of course, Angry Birds is currently the ‘star turn’ of Finnish licensing (and media business in general), so the topic hot at all trade shows – the growth of digital platforms for licensing – was a central theme in Helsinki. The fact, however, that the Moomins remains such a strong brand after many years here (and internationally, judging by the crowds of Japanese, in full-blown ‘kawaii culture’ mode, raiding the Moomins store in a city-centre mall on Saturday) also chimes with much that we all saw at the more established winter trade shows: nostalgia is back once again.

Who bought all the dinosaurs? I’m talking about the moving displays on several stands at Olympia and NEC that the manufacturers sold off at the end of the shows. Well, whoever it was, they are going to be in good company by the time we’ve seen Jurassic Park 3D, Walking with Dinosaurs and Jurassic Park IV hit our cinemas over the next fifteen months. Do they ever go away, these ‘cute’ monsters that appeal to successive generations?

Well, if they do, it’s when they are nudged aside by Furby, or even Cabbage Patch Kids that have made yet another comeback in the UK. The issue for the dinosaur ‘brands’ is standing out from the ‘generic’ beasts, if licensing is to thrive for them. Jurassic Park can lay claim to being a pretty authoritative brand in this field, still legendary as the first of the CGI movies. How amazing that seemed back in 1992, despite the fact that there were a mere 13 minutes of computer-generated beasties in the finished film.

In case you never knew, this movie was also indirectly responsible for the creation of LIMA-member – the Natural History Museum’s – whole licensing programme. Link Licensing, long since merged into other agencies, persuaded the NatHist that their dinosaur brand was at least as strong as Spielberg’s, and how right they were, at least in the UK. It’s also very interesting that 20th Century Fox chose to incur the costs involved in making their film under the BBC Walking with Dinosaurs brand rather than invent their own movie title. I’m told that the box office for the world tour of the live show grossed more than that of the Rolling Stones, or Bon Jovi, so it’s not just the older musicians who are the ‘dinosaurs’ here!

What’s next? Come and join LIMA for Spring Fling on May 16th in London and share your opinions with many of those who should know. Maybe we should ask you all to bring an old licensed dino with you; antiques licensing show, anyone?

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