Creators as Brands

A handful of celebrity- and estate-licensing programs exhibiting this year at Licensing Expo, held last week in Las Vegas, were centered not on actors or musicians, but on creators of entertainment properties. For example:

  • Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment was founded by the late comic book creator to manage and license newly created IP not owned by other entities, as well as protect and license his name and likeness. The exhibit featured a variety of animated versions of Lee, realistic and stylized, in comic book and cartoon styles. (POW! has exhibited at the show in the past as well.)
  • Norman Lear – The Shows is a brand managed by Act III Productions, Lear’s production company. It gathers all of his classic TV series, including Archie Bunker, The Jeffersons, Maude, and more, under one umbrella. The brand’s logo is a television screen topped by the hat Lear is known for wearing. Act III, which is based at the Sony Pictures Studios lot, was exhibiting at the Sony booth this year.
  • The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen brand was created as a banner for the intellectual properties of producer Irwin Allen, known for The Poseidon Adventure, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants, among others. Exhibitor Synthesis Entertainment was founded for the purpose of developing and managing Allen’s IP.

These are not the first creators to come out from behind the curtain, of course; Alfred Hitchcock was certainly known and beloved. In licensing terms, however, most of the entertainment creators that historically have managed brand-extension efforts have been known more for their work in front of the camera than for being the creators behind those efforts. Think The Three Stooges, Bozo the Clown, or Roberto Gómez Bolaños (Chesperito).

The trend of pure creators entering the licensing business, as is the case with the three examples mentioned here, is likely to strengthen as more fans become aware of who is behind the entertainment they love, seek out those creators’ work, and feel a deeper personal connection by following directors, producers, and writers on social media. At the same time, film, TV, and comic creators, like other celebrities, are savvy about the potential of licensing and other commercial outlets and are more likely to retain rights for commercial exploitation of their properties than they were in the past.

For more of RaugustReports’ insights and observations from Licensing Expo 2019, see our detailed wrap-up here.

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