GLOBAL: Licensing well-known characters can help a brand achieve cut-through and differentiation but marketers considering this approach need to be aware that the processes and priorities involved are very different to those of the ad industry.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to license brand characters in advertising, David Born, owner of Born Licensing, outlines the steps necessary to license a brand character – defined as one that has appeared in a film, TV show, game, book, comic or is simply a popular toy; it is not a brand’s own creation – in any market around the world.

There are multiple benefits to using a brand character, he says, including tapping into existing emotions and memories, leveraging widespread awareness and familiarity or targeting a specific demographic (a classic example being Volkswagen’s use of the Darth Vader character in promoting its Passat model).

There are also numerous approaches possible, from the simple use of existing footage or voiceovers through to bespoke animation.

But while there can be many benefits to licensing brand characters there are also many hurdles, not least identifying who the rights holder is in any particular region and how they deal with licensing requests.

“Depending on the situation, the process could take several months or it could be as quick as days,” says Born who recommends leaving as much time as possible for this process.

The marketer may feel their idea is a good brand fit, but IP holders have their own objectives, strategies, budgets and initiatives. They will want to see a script, Born advises, “or at very least get a sense of who the advertiser is and how their IP will be tied in”.

And they will want to know which markets the character will feature in, when a campaign will launch, how long it will be in the market for and across what media.

“At that point they would also want to understand what kind of budget you have available for licensing and/or what the media spend will be,” Born adds. “They will also want to understand your schedule to see if it is a realistically achievable production.”

Once these major obstacles have been overcome, marketers will need to clarify details around the licence agreement and fee and ensure IP holders are kept in the loop during the production process.

Remember, Born stresses, that “a licence does not allow you an unlimited use of a character”.

Sourced from WARC