If there's one thing sure to create controversy it is the creation of a league based solely on subjective opinions. And P&I's Top 20 Licensing Leaders is no exception, judging from the annual table's reception at previous Brand Licensing Shows.
Despite the odd word of criticism, most of those who work in promotional marketing and licensing said they thought the table provided an accurate picture of the major players in the industry.
As in previous years, we set up a panel of advisors that comprised the main players in promotional marketing and licensing. The brief was simple: identify the main movers and shakers in the industry over the past year.
Like the 2006 table, the criteria remains the same. All the names on the list have been influential in recent years and especially so over the past 12 months. The panel picked people who they thought had made a demonstrable impact on the sector, either through deals, innovative use of licences or creative implementation of a licensed campaign or strategy.
A large proportion of the people in the latest top 10 appeared in the 2006 table. However, there was a notable reduction in people working with FMCG brands, reflecting the general reduction in licensing activity in that area.
The results were extremely close and in many cases there was little to separate many of the candidates.
1. IAN DOWNES - FOUNDER, START LICENSING
If our annual league of licensing leaders could be compared to its football equivalent, then Downes would be Manchester United because he consistently finishes in or near the top position. Views from panellists range from "a safe pair of hands" to the "doyen of the industry". One thing the panel agrees on is that Downes' influence remains undiminished, despite having fewer licences than some of the other names on the list. One panel member compliments his skill and determination to do things the right way. Another says: "Downes remains one of the most influential people in the licensing world. His opinion is highly respected throughout the industry and he represents some major staple brands including Dennis the Menace and Bang on the Door." Another says simply: "He knows everyone and he has bags of integrity. The man is a legend."
2. RICHARD HOLLIS - HEAD OF UK LICENSING, BBC WORLDWIDE
Another name that is always near the top, Hollis moves up from three to two on the back of Doctor Who and high expectations for children's show In the Night Garden. As well as handling the large numbers of properties that pass through his hands, the head of licensing at BBC Worldwide also has to deal with the political baggage for which the public service organisation is renowned. Panellists agree that Hollis has consistently managed to do an excellent job with both. One says: "He has a gravitas that demands attention. This, coupled with the power of the BBC, means that he plays a pivotal role in the industry."
3. LISA SHAPIRO - MANAGING DIRECTOR, ENTERTAINMENT DIVISION, THE LICENSING COMPANY (TLC)
Last year's number one may have lost her crown, but that doesn't mean TLC is completely out of the picture. Shapiro's lower ranking is partly due to a dip in activity as over the past year the company was riding a tidal wave of business generated by The Lord of the Rings. That is not to say there has been a shortage of work in the past year with TLC launching activities around the Spider-Man 3 and Open Season films. And the forthcoming movie The Golden Compass, based on the first book in Philip Pullman's popular His Dark Materials trilogy, should further solidify Shapiro's position on the licensing map. "Always on the ball, honest and very experienced," is how one panellist describes Shapiro.
4. DAVID SCOTT - MANAGING DIRECTOR, RAINBOW PRODUCTIONS
As a specialist in pre-school children's licensing, Rainbow occupies a difficult area because its brands are increasingly the focus of legislation. However, in the words of one panellist, Scott is a great ambassador and mainstay of the industry, as well as a leader in costumes, puppet show characters, and mascot development. Retail tours such as ones for Fifi and the Flowertots have regularly led to increased sales. "Rainbow has a can-do attitude and has invested in technology, such as voice technology, to enhance its range of characters," one panellist says.
5. CARL LUMBARD - SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT, LICENSING EUROPE, 20TH CENTURY FOX
Described as one of the quiet men of the industry, Lumbard has run 20th Century Fox's licensing business for four years. This year he has presided over successful promotions for The Simpsons leading up to the release of the TV cartoon's first movie. "In terms of going out and getting his face known, he's not the best known person on the list," says one panellist. "But in terms of getting the job done he is probably more adept than some of those who do have a higher profile."
6. KEITH CHAPMAN - FOUNDER, CHAPMAN ENTERTAINMENT
The creator of Bob the Builder is proving to be more than just a one-trick pony with the roll-out of new kids TV series Roary the Racing Car, which features the voice of comedian Peter Kay. Chapman is one of the best-known creatives in the business who also had the foresight to realise the potential of his innovations and launch his own licensing business. Other Chapman properties include Fifi and the Flowertots. "If you're looking at licensing leaders then he certainly fits the bill as he been involved in some of the most successful properties," one panellist says.
7. NICK AUSTIN/EMMA SHERSKI - CHAIRMAN/MARKETING AND LICENSING DIRECTOR, VIVID IMAGINATIONS
"Day to day, from a licensing point of view, Emma deals with the business. But Nick deals with the bigger picture such as the retailers," says one panellist. "Outside of giants, such as Mattel and Hasbro, it's the most significant company." However, the two move down as Vivid is poised to lose the rights to distribute the popular Bratz dolls in the UK.
8. SIMON PHILIPS - PRESIDENT, MARVEL INTERNATIONAL
The president of Marvel and former 4Kids managing director, Philips has a high reputation in the industry. One panellist describes him as "inventive" while another credits him for the work he did at 4Kids in moving the company away from its traditional children's niche to licences such as Kelly Brook Swimwear and the Royal Air Force. He is also an ex-member of LIMA International where he promoted the vision that the licensing world extended beyond the US. "People have a high regard for him. It was a good move going to Marvel," says one panellist. However, some predict Philips' profile may take a dip now that he has joined the US company.
9. PETER BYRNE - EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL LICENSING, MERCHANDISING AND HOME ENTERTAINMENT, HIT ENTERTAINMENT
"If you're talking about movers and shakers, Pete is certainly one," says one panellist. "He came in about a year or so ago to set up a completely new system. Since then he has made a positive impact and is very visible." Byrne is described as an "adept negotiator" of political minefields and a man of vision and wisdom. Hit handles licences for Bob the Builder and Angelina Ballerina.
10. SEAN CLARK - HEAD OF LICENSING, AARDMAN ANIMATIONS
It is arguably hard to fail with Wallace & Gromit on your side, but Clark is credited for always trying to create a first. Recent campaigns involved the return of 1980s animated character Morph for a Friends of the Earth campaign. And with an eye on the future, Shaun the Sheep is promising to follow on well from Wallace & Gromit. "Very effective," is how one panellist describes him.
11. STEPHEN GOULD - MANAGING DIRECTOR, 4KIDS ENTERTAINMENT
The man who replaced Simon Philips at 4Kids has managed to hold on to his position in the table, despite having taken over the company at a time that one panellist describes as "a period of transition". Another says he believes the agency is on its way back after a difficult year, adding that 4Kids has produced some excellent work around the use of the RAF licence. Another panel member describes him as the "heart-throb of the licensing industry". In addition to Gould's licensing-related activities, he is to take part in a charity swimathon he has organised around the Maltese islands.
12. VICKIE O'MALLEY - MANAGING DIRECTOR, CPLG
It is usually O'Malley's boss, Kirk Bloomgarden who is in the limelight, but this year's panellists opted for O'Malley because they say she is more focused on the UK and integral to relationships with Dreamworks. Says one: "She's a great professional, understands Dreamworks well and offers sound advice to any promotional partner and their agency on creative execution. She is also open to innovative use of the licence and is not afraid of new ideas." Another says: "Fantastic personality who continues to inspire her team and to earn the respect of licensors, licensees and the licensing community in general." CPLG has the licence for the hit US sci-fi drama series Heroes, which airs in the UK on BBC2.
13. KELVYN GARDNER - MANAGING DIRECTOR, ASGARD; MANAGING DIRECTOR, LIMA
As head of LIMA, Gardner has to be commended for taking on a roll which is tough because of the industry's focus on the US. "Gardner's influence has grown as he has tried to raise the profile of the organisation," says one panellist, adding he has worked hard to put in place standards and holds "great vision" for the industry. Another says Gardner deserves credit for trying to build LIMA's membership and by increasing the number of incentives to join the trade organisation.
14. US CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
No one could have missed Mattel's decision to recall millions of products over fears of the toys' safety. The move illustrates the influence that the US CPSC has in the licensing world. "Not only did the move bring into question the trust that people place in some of the high street's biggest brands," one panellist says, "but it also made the US market take a big step back and review its almost total reliance on the Chinese manufacturing market. While this won't have an immediate impact on manufacturing, it's certainly had an impact on people's perception of the licensing business."
15. GREG NUGENT - MARKETING DIRECTOR, EUROSTAR
This is the first time former Weetabix marketer Nugent has appeared in the list. His marketing activity for Eurostar over the past 12 months has gone a long way towards re-establishing the cross-channel train service. From a licensing point of view, his inclusion is primarily on the back of Eurostar's award-winning big budget Da Vinci Code promotion, which was one of its most ambitious and effective campaigns to date. At the heart of the campaign was 19 cryptic challenges inspired by the book, backed up by TV, cinema, ambient, outdoor and experiential marketing. The results speak for themselves: advance bookings up 20 per cent, with total sales for 2006 up five per cent. Nugent's next task will be to promote Eurostar's move from Waterloo to St Pancras at the end of the year.
16. PHIL OVERTON/STEVE PEARCE - DIRECTORS, RED CENTRAL
Quality of design is one area of licensing that is integral to its success, with the creation of style guides increasingly important. Red Central is one of the UK's major players in this field and the company has enjoyed success in the notoriously hard to crack US market. One panellist says: "While they work to orders, there is no doubt that Red Central's commercial thinking has helped shape many successful licensing campaigns and helped the industry to be seen as innovative in retail and consumer eyes." Another adds: "Pearce and Overton work extremely hard to understand the market's needs and are trusted confidantes of many in the industry when it comes to design development." Licences that the agency has been involved with include Transformers and Roary the Racing Car.
17. RICHARD WOOD - DEVELOPMENT CONSULTANT, BIG BADGE COMPANY
The Big Badge Company is at the forefront of linking licensed characters to good causes and the product offering has evolved over time from badges into items such as mini-plush toys. "Richard is always approachable and acts as a great link between the licensing and charity sectors," says one panellist. "He is good at feeding back comments and ideas allowing all partners to have the opportunity to maximise the partnerships." Another panellist praises Wood's innovative use of licences, saying: "Who would have combined the Violent Vegetables with the Anthony Nolan Trust? But he made it work." Another adds: "He's very proactive and stays in touch with people. He has a great knowledge of licensed properties and the links between them and charities is down to him. He acts as a marriage broker if you like."
18. GRAHAM SALTMARSH - LICENSING DIRECTOR, CARTOON NETWORK
Initially coming in to Cartoon Network on maternity cover, Saltmarsh has performed admirably with the difficult task of licensing programmes that are not on terrestrial television. "He has whipped up a real storm at Cartoon Network with his work on Ben 10, a property that is on everybody's lips," says one panellist. "He has secured a raft of deals with more coming through and there is great success on a retail level. Graham's work has gone a long way in helping to demonstrate that terrestrial TV is not essential for a successful licensing programme."
19. PAUL COMBEN - MANAGING DIRECTOR, AT MEDIA
Dropping from number eight to number 19, Comben is one of this year's biggest fallers. Last year, he was one of the UK's foremost practitioners of mobile-related licensing. But the problem with a good idea is that everyone else can copy it. AT Media's work behind the Crazy Frog character and ring tone broke new ground at the time, but the panel felt there has been nothing to equal that success since. However, Comben still plays an important part in the industry. "Paul works on properties that generate more money through their sticking power than the event properties that drive the licensing industry," says one commentator.
20. AYSHA KIDWAI - COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, WATERMELON
Kidwai's inclusion is based largely on Watermelon's close relationship with Marks & Spencer, one of the most famous names on the UK high street. The retailer is enjoying a sales renaissance on the back of its womenswear TV ad campaign featuring iconic models such as Twiggy after years of turmoil. One panellist even describes Watermelon as the "gateway" to M&S. "This privileged position is maintained and enhanced by the licences it delivers to the mighty M&S," another says. "Aysha is responsible for much of this delivery and works hard to keep licences fresh and exciting."