The Girls Are Back In Town

By May 01, 2001

Nice girls did not finish last in the 2001 Licensing Excellence Awards.

Properties featuring female characters Powerpuff Girls, Barbie, and Eloise were the biggest winners in the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association’s annual program, announced in June as part of Licensing Show in New York City.

The female audience is often a tough one to crack, notes Charles Riotto, president of LIMA, New York City. I don’t know why, but that audience always seems a little harder to define or wrap your arms around, Riotto says. But it was mainly girls’ properties winning the awards this time.

And not just new girls properties, either. Barbie and Eloise are what most people consider classic properties, notes Riotto. There does seem to be a trend in the industry to lean toward characters that have been around for a long time.

Here’s a rundown of some winning programs.

Puff Stuff

Los Angeles-based Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ Powerpuff Girls captured three awards: the overall License of the Year and both License of the Year and Licensee of the Year/soft goods in the Entertainment/Character category.

The three-year-old animated series, which airs on Cartoon Network, is supported by a comprehensive program that includes toys, apparel, domestics, accessories, and interactive product.

Our licensees did a stellar job of translating the look and the attitude of the girls into the product, says Karen McTier, executive vp-domestic licensing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

It was a very good licensing program that had some excellent merchandising behind it and some great appeal for younger girls, says Riotto.

It also had great appeal for promotional partners: Subway Restaurants, Coca-Cola’s Hi-C, Campbell Soup Co.’s Pepperidge Farms, Kraft Foods, and Delta Airlines have all featured the characters in high-profile campaigns.

She’s Got Legs

El Segundo, CA-based Mattel’s Barbie swept the Brand/Corporate category, gaining License of the Year and Licensee of the Year in both hard goods (New York City-based KIDdesigns’ toys) and soft goods (sportswear maker Mamiye, also New York City).

What makes Barbie so timeless is her flexibility not in opposability, but in play-ability. With no limiting story tied to her, Barbie is primarily a figment of a girl’s imagination, says Carole Levine, vp-Barbie Consumer Products. And by creating good products around her, she can always stay current.

Mattel has kept Barbie fresh by coming out with new merchandise and new spins on the character itself, says Riotto. That’s something to be held up as an example: It doesn’t have to be newly introduced in the marketplace to still stand out.

Hometown Girl

New York City-based FAO Schwarz received the Retailer of the Year Award for its work with itsy bitsy Entertainment Co.’s Eloise. That’s fitting, since the literary character resides at the Plaza Hotel which is located across the street from the toy chain’s flagship Manhattan store.

The store’s window displays really brought the Eloise story to life, says FAO chief operating officer David Niggli. The chain also put a dress-up Eloise cut-out in its Christmas catalog and gave her more than 30 square feet of space in-store with dedicated signage.

Eloise is a New York icon and they captured her character, says Andrew Kerr, director of retail relations for itsy bitsy, New York City.

Going Batty

Breaking up the distaff party was Warner Bros.’ Batman, which won Promotion of the Year for a licensing deal between New York City-based DC Comics and Troy, MI-based OnStar Adventures for General Motors.

The program topped the other nominees Kraft Foods and Hasbro, Inc.’s Game of Life, McDonald’s Power Rangers campaign (with Saban Entertainment), Sprint PCS’s Clue effort (with Hasbro), and the multi-partner Rugrats Passport to Paris with a really well-thought-out and well-managed program, Riotto says.

GM’s OnStar used the Caped Crusader in print, TV, and online efforts that included interactive Webisodes.

This is one of the most comprehensive promotions I have ever worked on, says Joel Ehrlich, senior vp-advertising & promotions at Warner Bros./DC Comics. It is the best example of a cross-promotion and license, and a case study of how to use a property character in every single aspect of a campaign.