#TCMC: Licensed to Thrill

The task of making a ‘licensing hit’ is one that can change a company forever, but isn’t quite so easy to do. Susan Bolsover (Penguin), Natasha Dyson (Blonde Sheep), Rob Goodchild (Aardman Animation), Rachel Wakley (Tesco) and Marianne James (Viacom) sought to give a little insight into the world of licensing at the Children’s Media Conference.

“You need rich content.”
So: explain what it takes to get that licensing hit. Straight to the chase. Simple.

“You need rich content,” says Susan. You’ve got to get the core content right before branching out. Natasha adds that you can’t always plan these things, some really do come from left field. Susan makes an important point on international markets: a hit in one place won’t necessarily work everywhere – you need to adapt for the marketplace you’re working in.

“There’s no way of predicting,” says Marianne. “You never know.” Even with brand new content, there’s no guarantee, but she thinks if you put a British voice behind it, the majority will work.

“Remember that the consumer and customer aren’t always the same,” adds Rachel. A children’s product will be purchased by an adult, so it has to speak to the right people in the right way. Susan picks up that when you see the first thing of said potential brand, you need to know the market and where it will go. It’s a gut instinct, understanding whether it will work for toys, online content and so on.

“Research is key to us,” says Marianne. “It fuels and drives many of our decisions, knowing who consumers and how.”

“You’re competing for a share of time.”
They’re working in creative industries, so licensing often comes under the term. To them, is licensing actually a creative field?

“We make acquisitions from the book point of view,” says Susan. “If there’s further rights we can exploit, we’ll get involved.” They don’t limit themselves.

“We don’t think we can reinvent the wheel, but we’re creative in how we do it,” says Rachel. Tesco’s website is a media platform; the website isn’t just a click+view job, it’s to engage people. Retailers aren’t just bricks and need to act and adjust accordingly.

The key point of licensing is that “you’re competing for a share of time”, according to Rachel, so the product should be something people would want. “It’s not reacting to how it could be done or should be done, but how the customers want to engage.”

It’s coming to a quick close, but does this apply to other digital worlds, like apps and sites? With digital-born content becoming more prevalent, it’s a worry that they’re confined to pixel-space, but worry not:

“Look at something like Minecraft,” says Rachel. “It started digital and is now toys and books. It doesn’t matter where it’s born from.”

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