Over on the Licensing Lookout, Start Licensing’s Ian Downes has been browsing at the latest partworks on the UK market including Hachette’s new Draw The Marvel Way and offers some interesting insights on comics in general from his point of view as a licensing agent.
“As soon as the Christmas decorations are down and the Christmas cards are (hopefully) recycled, it can be guaranteed that you will see the first of a clutch of partwork commercials on TV and the actual partworks in store,” he notes. “Normally the first issues are marketed at a special price and are bulked up packwise to grab consumer interest at retail.A partwork is a collectable magazine normally with a ‘how to’ element. It can run for over a year and is made up of a number of issues. Traditionally the titles were non-licensed and focused on self improvement , hobbies or ‘special’ interests. Classic titles have included Microwave Know How and Discovering Needlecraft.
“However, a few years ago partwork companies discovered licensing – I think the first licensed title was based on the BBC series Animals of Farthing Wood. Since then partwork publishers such as Eaglemoss, De Agostini and Hachette have become more reliant on licensing and licensed titles. This has I’m sure been welcomed by licensing companies as a successful partwork can be financially lucrative and create a marketing buzz for a property. Furthermore partworks can work internationally.”
Ian singles out Hachette’s Draw The Marvel Way, whose contributors include artists Mike Collins and Russ Leach, for its editorial strength, calling it “a great example of how to use a license effectively and for Marvel it is a very positive way of portraying their characters.”
He also has some interesting observations on the way the British comics market has evolved that offer a useful insight into the way those marketing brands consider the medium, that are well worth a read.
Noting that in most retailers the children’s comic and magazine section is dominated by licensed titles, ranging from standalone titles to compilation titles, like many downthetubes contributors he echoes concerns that one of the challenges at retail is display. “The comics fixture can often be messy and overcrowded,” he observes, which as I noted last year, works to the detriment of sales for comic publishers. Ian singles out DC Thomson’s recent Thunderbirds Are Go launch promotion for particular praise.
“There is a debate in the comics world that the free gift is now more important than the comic itself. Some people believe that there are too many free gifts,” he also notes. “My feeling is that the consumer expectation for comics has changed, the buying occasion has also changed (more comics are sold in supermarkets now for example) and therefore in the licensed arena a good ‘free gift’ is part of the comic offer.
That said I think consumers realise the gift isn’t free and is part of the cost of the product. Reassuringly I think comic publishers such as Redan, Egmont, Titan and DC Thomson place great emphasise on the quality of the content and spend a lot of time researching their products. Editorial and design standards are high.”
Overall, Ian feels “comics and magazines are maybe a little undervalued in licensing terms. “They can be a great communication platform to fans, link to other parts of the licensing programme and can set a qualitative standard for the licensing programme.”
This is a rare look at comics from a different viewpoint but one well worth a look if you’re considering going into the business yourself. Check Ian’s article out here on The Licensing Lookout