WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY EXPANDS LICENSING EFFORTS

David Palmer's Quest to Intersect Celebrities and Products

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Who: David Palmer, head of the William Morris Agency’s new merchandising and licensing division.

Why you need to know him: Formerly vice president of the Hollywood talent agency’s corporate consulting department, Mr. Palmer is now seeking out licensing opportunities for the company’s roster of clients, which includes Tim Burton, Wes Craven, LL Cool J and Ryan Seacrest.
David Palmer is looking for licensing opportunities for clients including LL Cool J and Wes Craven.



Credentials: Prior to joining the William Morris Agency, Mr. Palmer spent 18 years on the studio side, primarily in corporate marketing, consumer products, TV and strategic promotions. In addition to working at the Walt Disney Co. for five years, just out of college, he also worked at Turner Broadcasting Systems, MGM and most recently at Sony Pictures Television as senior vice president of marketing and promotions.

What are some of your goals with this new division? “To proactively develop creative licensing strategies for select clients [that] are organic to their primary entertainment platforms and maximize innovative licensing programs -- both through traditional bricks and mortar retailers or through other channels of retail distribution.”

Can you give a few examples of licensing deals you’ve done or are working on for William Morris clients? “In mid-June, following the fourth season of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest will launch a men's and women's high-end t-shirt line which we've had amazing response to. Ryan seeded the product throughout this season's American Idol and got tremendous response. With Ryan's American Top 40, season five of American Idol and a huge following among a wide demographic audience, we feel that consumers will buy the products for both themselves and for gifts. Ryan will also be very aggressive in supporting the line with retail appearances and innovative promotions. In addition, we've developed a great apparel line for Della Reese and are working on a very innovative program for LL Cool J, among others. In some cases our talent will approach us. In other cases, and where we see opportunities, we'll go to the talent. In addition to working with actors, actresses and music talent, we are also exploring opportunities with directors including Tim Burton and Wes Craven. Our approach will be proactive rather than reactive. We will also work with our talent to maximize their deals, where appropriate, with the studios.”

How will you help those licensed products stand out in the marketplace? “Through innovative promotions, appearance, celebrity outreach and direct retail relationships.”

How will you go about structuring licensing deals that may differ from what’s been done before? “In some cases we will look at traditional deals with guarantees and royalties. In other cases, our clients are looking for joint ventures and/or partnerships and will look at a more significant back-end ownership stake. Each client is different and each deal will be structured accordingly.”

What kinds of licensing are your clients interested in? “Most of the William Morris clients are looking to build proprietary programs that are consistent with their overall career goals. While many female clients are interested in health, beauty, wellness and apparel, others are looking for programming- and/or content-related programs [a la QVC or HSN] where they can leverage their celebrity awareness and entertainment platforms to show, explain and promote a product. We are working in deals ranging from HBA [health and beauty aids] and apparel to restaurants and theme parks.”

Since everyone from Ty Pennington and Martha Stewart to Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez have jumped in, is the market saturated with celebrity clothes, perfumes, workout wear and hearth-and-home products? “There is a true glut of everyone trying to emulate either Martha Stewart or Sean John. There is truly only one Martha Stewart and she is not going away. I'm confident that she'll come back stronger than ever and we'll see Kmart -- and Sears -- embrace her lifestyle-related product in a much greater way. While many celebrities do want apparel or HBA deals, it is our job to assess the market, look at trends and develop unique merchandise opportunities that fit with the talent which we represent. We also have to be very aware as to if there is a potential market for the product and develop unique positioning to sell the line to potential retailers and licensees. Our strategy is to clearly asses the market and develop proprietary opportunities. We will be realistic in our approach and innovative in our development.”

What are some of the trends in the licensing business today? “Many of the studios are looking at licensing to not only generate revenue through merchandise but to work with retailers to further build awareness of the movie and/or television property. DreamWorks’ relationship with Wal-Mart is a prime example. Sony, Disney, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon have also been innovative in this area. Studios are relying on their product development process to clarify and understand the psychographic profile of the buyer and develop innovative licensing programs to reach, impact and touch the consumer. Studio licensing programs will continue to succeed and I think you'll see a trend toward more lifestyle and label oriented programs.”

What’s the last licensed product you bought? Were you happy with it? “Over Memorial Day weekend, I wore several of 'The R Line' by Ryan Seacrest T-Shirts in Palm Springs. I had people stopping me on the streets asking about the shirts. The quality of the cotton, combined with the great design and fit will ensure the line's success.”

Any early predictions on this year’s Licensing Show? What will be buzzworthy or trendy? “I think we'll see more lifestyle-oriented brands standing out and less character-driven merchandise. I also think that licensees are banking on television rather than film opportunities.”