The Independent in ‘ruthless’ licensing industry shock horror exposé shock

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on December 10, 2010

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that’s enough shocks – Ed.

As I recall, the slogan for the 70s sequel, Jaws 2, was something along the lines of ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water……’. I kind of feel the same way about an article published in The Independent on 4th December. (

Under the withering yet laughingly unoriginal title ‘ How toys took over kids’ TV’ journalist Gerard Gilbert does his best to produce a once-standard demolition job on the licensing business, which, he believes, is ‘ruthless’.

The Indy did us the honour of attending this year’s Brand License Europe show, it seems, although they were clearly not impressed enough to write about it contemporaneously, given that their article has appeared no less than nine weeks after the show finished.

If Mr Gilbert had checked his final paragraph before submitting his copy, he may have been obliged to alter its tone. He quotes Anne Brogan of Kindle ( creators of Big and Small ): ‘If your creativity can’t engage the kids in the first place, they’re not going to buy the rucksack or the DVD’. The truth about the licensing potential of kids’ TV in a nutshell. No creativity = no engagement= no sales. The sales folllow the creativity and engagement, not the other way around. Children are as ruthless as consumers as they are as TV viewers. One week, your show is their favourite, the next, you are replaced in their affections by something newer and better. No brand loyalty here, yet you would not think so from Gilbert’s piece, which is littered with lazy cliches and false conclusions. Get your show on TV and get rich seems to be the message, despite the opposite being obviously the case. Peppa Pig succeeded where The Big Knights (from the same producers) failed. It was all down to scheduling, apparently. And there was me thinking that children actually like the Peppa Pig TV show. We are further led to understand that Andrew Davenport’s keynote address at BLE was attended by ‘a packed room of jaded-looking delegates’ – did you see anyone looking ‘jaded’ on the first day of Brand Licensing Show? Using this description is the writer’s shorthand way of implying that the whole industry is simply an exploitative bore.

On a brighter note Richard Hollis probably enjoyed being described as ‘one of the most powerful men in British Children’s television’, although Gilbert seems to have forgotten another trope of the press when he opines that licensed products are ‘ an increasing part of what was once an arguably innocuous way of keeping the children occupied – watching television’. I’m clearly suffering from false-recall when remembering acres of newsprint that told us how harmful for kids was watching TV, an admonition that has only given way since the advent of other soft targets such as video games, then facebook and similar villains.

Neither do we get any sympathy for helping out the production of children’s TV. The law of unintended consequences has meant that Offcom rules ( introduced for the entirely positive reason of improving our kids’ health ) have reduced funding for kids’ TV because broadcasters, denied advertising revenue, can’t afford to buy children’s programmes. Licensing revenue has made up some of this gap, and there are even people  who are no strangers to licensing involved with the entirely-noble Save Kids TV campaign ( Mr Gilbert seems upset that his daughter asks for Peppa Pig merchandise, but nowhere does he intimate the quality of this show. One wonders why it is that a successful web retailer, ASOS, has become the darling of the press when its model is selling things that you might have seen your favourite movie or TV star wearing – sounds a bit like a little girl wanting a toy of her favourite TV star, Peppa Pig. One rule for the ‘adults’, another for the children – perhaps they should go back to being seen and not heard. Not unlike The Independent which is, for the most part, ‘seen but not read’.