First Word--October 2005

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When the number crunchin' was done for our 2005 Industry Annual Report, it came as no surprise that 2004 overall estimated worldwide retail sales of licensed product was up by 1.5 percent over 2003 to reach $175.3 billion. Over the last couple of years, the licensing industry has responded to the retail community in incredibly inventive ways: co-branding, product promotions, delving into archives to address the retro trend, direct-to-retail, and the ubiquitous exclusive. Questions remain: Was our industry reacting to retail or was retail acting in response to our industry? Are any of these efforts a short-term solution to a long-term problem? And, of course, what's next? Like training the consumer to wait for a sale (retail did that), the consumer now expects more from the manufacturing environment: more of the latest technology (wireless, plug 'n play-type systems), more product punch (toys mimic the characters to a T), more all-inclusive sort of gift-with-purchase type merchandising (book/DVD combos), more, more, more. You keep delivering...bravo!

I must admit my awe at what I believe is the best "multi-branding" deal I have seen in our industry: At the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, NJ, World Poker Tour unveiled (and screened) its video game for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GBA, under license from 2k Sports. Here's what I mean and here's why. The game, beyond visually stimulating and interactive (you can create your own player down to hair color treatment), brands the WPT, features the likenesses of players, and brands several hotels where WPT is held (including the Borgata, down to the carpet on the floor). More than one brand and entertainment working seamlessly in the same environment.

More, more, and more is what has kept Fisher-Price entertaining kids for 75 years. But that's not limited to the U.S., as Fisher-Price Friends (the licensing division for preschool TV shows) looks to international properties not yet on air in the U.S. As related in the article, "you never know where the next trend will come from."

Next month, I'll reveal the five finalists and winner of the MIPCOM Junior Licensing Challenge, being held October 14 in Cannes, France. Judged by an international jury, the winner surely will get play in the world of broadcast, licensing, and merchandising.

I was negligent last month in this column by not including keynote presentations at MIPCOM from Howard Roffman of Lucas Licensing and Dan Romanelli of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The two keynote sessions will take place Tuesday, October 18, and will be followed by a Q&A session with the two executives. In addition, deservingly, Romanelli will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award from MIPCOM organizer Reed Midem. Another bravo!

As an industry, we're at the top of our game because we always are in search of the "bravos" at varied trade events. Happy hunting!

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