Character Conundrum

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Home for just one day after vacation in Mexico (business was still top of mind for at least one day, as I ventured to the mall to check out retail), and then it was off to Seoul, Korea, for the Seoul Character Fair, organized by KOCCA (Korea Culture & Content Agency) and COEX (Convention & Exhibition). If I were to sum up in one word the overwhelming mindset of exhibitors (easily more than 100), it would be "hungry." They are hungry for information on the licensing business, hungry for information on the U.S. retail state, hungry for opinions on their characters and animation, and hungry in the way there's a creative fire burning and they want to keep the flame alive. What exactly do you say to such eager and creative companies?

The retail state in the U.S. is in flux. If you aren't on one of the major U.S. children's networks (you know which), the chances of retailers and licensees even looking at your property are slim (not none, but definitely slim). And the ultimate answer: Many of the properties must be reworked for international sensibility. (That's not a bad thing, but add in language barriers and cultural differences, and the negotiations will be long and tedious. So long, in fact, that by the time the deal is done, the property may have lost its cachet with the potential partner.)

So, beyond all of the negatives that live, for the moment, in the world of licensing and broadcasting, what "hope" can we provide for such talent (and I must confess that I would support so many of the Korean character properties I viewed...Pucca, MashiMaro, Dooly & Friends, Poko, among others)? I told those who attended my seminar to simply "incubate." In my mind, it's the same as utilizing out-of-the-box strategies. Many of these Korean characters can (and have) built a "cult-like" fan base via online strategies...now utilize mobile for viral marketing among 'tweens and teens. Does the character necessarily need animation and story lines? Couldn't some of these characters be the next Hello Kitty? Do they have to entrench the U.S., couldn't success just be international...at least for now?

What are your suggestions? And, if you weren't at the fair, wouldn't you like to learn more about the properties I viewed? E-mail me with both.

I'd like to extend a warm thanks to the organizers of the fair for inviting me to speak on behalf of LICENSE. In addition, as always, it was a chance for many licensing and broadcast professionals to gather, so thanks for the time spent together with Michael Diablo of SGI Apparel, Jules Borkent of Nickelodeon International Programming, and Katarina Dietrich of Copyright Promotions, as well as Jerry Houle of Bliss House and Eric Rollman of Marvel Studios.

By the time you read this note, we'll be headed to MAGIC Marketplace in Las Vegas, August 28 to 31. See you there!

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