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Licensing Factory New Europe(Posted: 19-10-2009)
By Richard Latter
Croatia. A funny country in which to stage a licensing show you may think. But look at it on a map and you can see how well it can serve the region from Slovenia and Hungary to the north, through Serbia to the immediate east and Romania and Bulgaria even further east. This, together with the other countries making up New Europe, is a huge region, encompassing in all some 400 million people. Potentially 400 million consumers? Well, it depends how you spin the figure doesn’t it, but why not? Certainly there is much business to be done here if both business and consumers can be educated in the ways of licensing.
Having first been approached by the organisers at Brand Licensing in October 2007, I was so pleased to see all their hard work come to fruition in the shape of the Licensing Factory New Europe conference and exhibition, held in the beautiful coastal resort of Rovinj on the Adriatic. The conference programme was a full one, well varied and pretty well attended for a first time event. The keynote speaker on day one, from the Disney Institute, drew a pre-registered audience of getting on for 150. We had a fascinating insight into the economy of the region from one speaker, and reasons why you should never attempt licensing from another! It was also encouraging to see some LIMA officials speaking and supporting the event.
Being a conference first and a trade show second meant that the exhibitors had some down time, but don’t we always at a first event. However, where we gained was seeing how and when a lot of business is conducted in this part of the world – socially, out of hours. Every evening had an event organised, which meant that we all mixed socially, relaxed and talked to different exhibitors and visitors. This meant that the following days were full of waves, and first sentences such as “nice to see you again” and “I didn’t know you worked with them”. Sure fire ice-breakers all of them. It seemed compulsory to attend these events, and indeed anyone opting out certainly missed out on a great deal.
There are some great local properties just waiting to burst out of this region. Here is an unashamed plug for a few:
Professor Balthazar, an original 60s character, has been updated by Ultralink to take advantage of the 90% recognition it enjoys in Croatia. The Balthazar Foundation has been set up to channel profits towards helping children’s projects, and this business model is getting ready to be rolled out in other countries.
The Fun Factory Studio / Janus Interactive, headquartered in Serbia, is pushing a modern animated character in an interactive TV programme. The kids can pre-register by phone in the hours before airing to hopefully be selected to take part live on air. A big part of this is that the money raised by the calls is also put directly towards helping children.
Lapitch, the Little Shoemaker, is another local animated property that has already achieved fantastic penetration for it’s creators Croatia Film. With TV series and a film, it is now set to push further afield and bring much deserved recognition.
Hisa Idej / Creano presented UMKO, who in their own words is “ready to be a worldstar”. Who’s to say this won’t happen?
Backed up by fellow exhibitors One2Play and Live, two of the biggest licensees and distributors of licensed product in the region, we got a fantastic overview of how big licensing could become out here.
There are undoubtedly problems to be overcome, especially with regard to licensing into this region. Parallel importing has to be looked at - we saw an example of 3 different companies importing and distributing almost exactly the same products – and local licensees are going to need the crucial support of the licensors and agents. It seems to be all too easy for the agent to sell a licence into a region that hasn’t produced before, and leave the licensee to its own devices, viewing any return as a result. It’s going to take time to build brands out here, but with events like Licensing Factory New Europe willing to take the plunge and put the educational wheels in motion, licensing has a chance to plough a deep furrow into this area.
New Europe is distinctly different from Eastern Europe, and local knowledge is going to be imperative for those who want to succeed here. I can’t help feeling that those of us who were willing to support this new event from the outset have gained a crucial early insight into the new business opportunities available. The Guide to the Licensing World is proud once again to be on the front line supporting those willing to further the frontiers of our industry.
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