Maarten Weck: A World of Opportunity

PLG's newly named managing director of Northern Europe sits down with License Global to discuss the global licensing agency's plans, not only for EMEA, but the opportunities that await around the world.

Maarten Weck, managing director, CPLG Northern Europe

Explain CPLG's overall strategy and how the agency positions its business in the U.K.
At CPLG U.K., we offer a complete range of services to licensors, licensees and retailers. Our portfolio touches every demographic and is constantly evolving with market trends. Having vast knowledge of the market from product concept to retail is imperative in the current market. The CPLG U.K. team aims to oversee and advise the complete licensing process through our different departments to ensure that the best design of products are relevant and on-trend to market.

In this competitive environment, what do you believe differentiates CPLG in the U.K./EMEA marketplace?
We recently re-structured to enable greater multi-territory/pan-Euro thinking. Many of our licensors are looking for a one-stop solution, and we have greatly expanded our representation of Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop, for example, with others to be announced. Of course local expertise is still vital, but we see that there is a world of opportunity if you look at the broader European picture, and we try to work with the licensees to extend their footprint or work with distributors to get product placed in more territories.

What do you believe are the most important characteristics that today's licensing agency must exhibit to be successful?
What we call "old school" licensing–meaning just selling a contract and moving on to the next without continuous contact and support–is gone. The licensing agency arena is becoming more complex and service-oriented. We have outstanding retail relationships, which are vital to the success of any licensing program, and we are also taking the lead on developing trend analysis, product ideas and territory-relevant creative that supports licensors, licensees and retailers.

Identify the key brands that are in the U.K. portfolio and provide a brief description.
"Teletubbies" is enjoying tremendous success in the U.K. With new episodes to air on CBeebies and further product lines launching, the brand is set to continue on its stellar trajectory into 2017, which is also the television series' 20th anniversary.

As retail interest in the Rugby Football Union has grown since the World Cup, listings have developed into non-core categories, and we have extended space in retail. We're aiming to grow this further into a year-round proposition. We're looking forward to the Autumn Internationals, starting in November, continuing the success England Rugby has recently has achieved.

Parental Advisory is a warning label first introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1985 and later adopted by the British Phonographic Industry in 2011. Its celebrity fans include Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Allen, Kylie Jenner, Jourdan Dunn and Jesy Nelson from Little Mix. It gained notoriety in the U.K. when Andy Murray's then-fiancée Kim Sears wore the top the day after she was caught swearing on camera at the 2015 Australian Open semi-final. The brand has now been seen in retailers such as Urban Outfitters, H&M, ASOS, Primark and New Look on apparel, and CPLG will continue to expand it into fashion accessories and other lifestyle categories.

2017 will mark the Care Bears franchise's 35th anniversary. We'll be extending our baby-toddler range into new categories and retailers, as well as supporting our existing partners with a number of retailer initiatives in line with the anniversary and a consumer PR campaign.

What do you believe key retailers are looking for with regard to licensed products and how has their mindset changed over the past few years?
Due to the recent economic climate, we see that retailers have become more risk averse and are focusing on "hooks" to enter into a licensing program. That may be content spikes, movie releases or halo programs, but either way there needs to be a hook. So it's key to create those for brands.

We also must focus on the range of products that can sit well at a retailer by not forcing as much product in as possible, but having a balanced, tailor-made offering which suits the needs of that retailer. This entails making sure that we know the retailer's needs and possibilities very well.

Name one or two of the most innovative licensed products that you have brought to market.
Speaking for the U.K. team, we have to go with the Star Trek Communicator from the Wand Company, a very cool, upscale extension for your mobile phone in which you really live the brand.

A close second is the Minion inflatable RC from Bladez, an extremely clever, innovative product that resonates well across all age demographics.

What do you believe are the key factors that will drive the future of your business?
As the licensing world is constantly evolving at a rapid pace, standing still is not an option. If that's making sure that we keep growing in our advisory agency role, better understanding retail needs, better servicing licensors and licensees, being more solution-oriented or leveraging our European local offices, we need to constantly push the needle to make sure we keep on top of the licensing game.

What are the key brands that will shape the future of CPLG in the U.K./EMEA?
Besides the aforementioned brands, there are others that are gaining good traction.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, "In the Night Garden" is currently the U.K.'s fourth favorite preschool brand, aided by Golden Bear's best-selling toy range. DHX Brands has also created the much-anticipated "In the Night Garden" baby range, which will roll out at retail in spring 2017.

"Twirlywoos" licensing activity continues to ramp up in the U.K., building on the success of launches from publisher HarperCollins and master toy partner Golden Bear, whose award-winning product line was one of the best-selling in 2016. Most recently, "Twirlywoos" Run Along Fun Sounds toys were awarded a 2016 Right Start Best Toy Award. "Twirlywoos" has also headed Down Under with toys hitting the shelves at major Australian retailers.

New content from the major studios ensures a real presence on the high street for Paramount Pictures, which sees the release of the summer blockbuster next year, Baywatch, and the recently released new installment of the Star Trek franchise from CBS.

CPLG U.K. continues to build the licensing program for the heritage brands within our portfolio, including "Sesame Street," "Space Invaders" and "Pink Panther," which showcases a brand-new look book and high-profile collaborations at BLE.

The recent addition of DreamWorks' Felix the Cat, the world's first animated character, sees CPLG embark on a new licensing program. High-profile collaborations with Bathing Ape and Elder Statesman launched earlier this year. A collaboration with Coach is following this fall, which has been gathering interest on the blogosphere and fashion press after being spotted on actress and model Chloe Grace Moretz. An archive dating back almost 100 years, along with trend-driven style guides, sees CPLG take the brand into fashion and lifestyle categories aimed initially at teenage and young adult males and females.

CPLG will continue to work on BAFTA Games' award-winning "Life is Strange" property. Square Enix and Legendary Digital Studios recently announced that they're partnering to create a live-action digital series based on it, and we're looking to develop fashion and trend product across different categories.

The new CGI-animated preschool series "Rainbow Ruby" from CJ E&M has all the key ingredients for a successful preschool property on screen and on shelf. DHX Media is the appointed TV distributor of the series in the U.S., Canada and EMEA (excluding France), and "Rainbow Ruby's" magical world has already attracted significant interest across the licensing industry.

"The Deep" is an underwater adventure show co-produced by A Stark Productions and DHX Media, with the underlying rights held by Technicolor. It has already been released on leading platforms in nine key territories around the world, and is currently the No. 1 animated show for 6- to 9-year-olds on CBBC. CPLG is looking to target the core categories of toys including vehicles, action figures, role play and dress-up for this series, as well as apparel and accessories, publishing, mobile games, seasonal, gift and novelty, and location-based entertainment.

This year CPLG added Billboard to its roster of clients. Billboard is the world's most influential music brand, built on the most complete and well-respected database of charts across all music genres. The Billboard charts define success in music. CPLG is focused on extending the brand into fashion apparel and accessories.

Born in California, Tony Hawk is the leading globally recognized skate culture lifestyle brand that combines style and performance and is "built for life." This year saw Hawk launch online at retailer Sports Direct with a range of clothing. CPLG will continue to build on this across all major categories that young men and boys utilize in their everyday lives, including backpacks, bags, accessories, footwear, home, school supplies and electronics.

CPLG will also be taking iconic sports brands such as St Andrews Links, which have traditionally had a more sports-focus, in a new direction through refreshed style guides and a long-term strategy to position them more as lifestyle brands at retail.

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