Executives from the merchandising and licensing business –– for which television constitutes a large percentage –– representing 90 countries have traveled to Las Vegas to meet with retailers, manufacturers, brand owners and marketers at Licensing Expo 2012, currently underway at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
According to Chris DeMoulin, president of Licensing at Advanstar, the show’s organizer, the attendance numbers are looking up this year. While they won’t have a final tally until “after the dust settles,” and the show ends tomorrow, DeMoulin reported that he’s witnessed “great energy.”
“Our attendance is up versus last year, but probably would have been up even more if not for the economic crisis in Europe. That said, attendance is up from the U.K. and Scandinavia, though we’re definitely seeing some softness in places like Greece and Spain, which are being hardest hit.”
According to DeMoulin, pre-registration numbers were up three-to-four percent overall, with international registration increasing by eight percent.
“There’s been tons of interest from South and Central America — we’re up somewhere around 15 percent in that area,” he said.
One interesting trend DeMoulin pointed to is how licensing is moving beyond the big studios’ kid-centric product (which still anchors the business), and into primetime reality shows, like Top Chef, American Idol and The Biggest Loser.
DeMoulin said there’s also a trend toward retailer exclusives, which allow licensors to market their products more specifically toward a certain demographic (e.g. Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara’s clothing line for Kmart and an American Idol’s line for Kohls).
“The other thing we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with is reality TV branding with real-time rollout. Fashion Star is a good example of that,” he said. The American design reality competition partnered with department stores such as Saks, Macy’s and H&M, making winning designs available for viewers to buy immediately.
Advancing mobile technologies will likely bring many more of those kinds of deals. “Technology is shortening the cycle between ‘I see it, I want it, I’ve got it,’” DeMoulin said.
In terms of some of the most impressive licensing campaigns of the last few years,
DeMoulin pointed to what Marvel and Disney did with the Avengers brand. “It was very smart to first roll out the individual characters — Iron Man, Thor, Captain America — separately and then culminate with The Avengers, which has become a global phenomenon, and made over $1 billion to date.”
As usual, DeMoulin said retro appeal is big at the Licensing Expo. “Properties that have a multi-generational appeal are always good, whether it’s Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whenever you have the opportunity to put a fresh spin on a classic product and appeal to parents and kids, it’s powerful. You see it in TV, and movies — too like Avengers, Spiderman and Dark Knight (which the studios refer to as rebooting).”
This year’s Licensing Expo is the fourth edition to take place in Las Vegas. DeMoulin said the move from New York City has been welcomed by attendees, and they plan to stay.
“It’s been great for the show. While people love to go to New York City, it’s a different vibe here. There’s a campus feel. People can stay in one of the many hotels on the property. Deals are done in lobbies, restaurants, and bars, really everywhere.”