HIGHLY PLACED FRIENDS HAVE ADMAN SKY HIGH

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Talk about a fortuitous chain of events.

One day about 10 years ago a British ad agency phoned Bob Launey and asked if he wanted to do some work for them in this country. The adman, Martin Powell, had pulled Launey's name out of an agency book "and thought it would be a good match." They did some joint direct marketing projects over the years.

In the meantime, Powell folded his agency and he and his wife started a TV production company to make kids' cartoons. They produced "Potsworth & Co.," one of the most popu lar cartoon shows in the BBC.

When Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of York, was looking for a licensing agent to negotiate tie-in deals for her children's book character, "Budgie the Little Helicopter," she selected Powell's company, Sleepy Kids PLC, the first time a commercial deal had been struck between the Royal Family and a private licensing company.

And when the Powells were ready to bring Budgie to the colonies, they selected their longtime partner, Launey Hachmann & Harris, as U.S. licensing and marketing agents. Not bad for a Brooklyn boy whose small agency was picked out of a hat by a London company that turned out to have royal connections.

Tonight marks the official launch of "Budgie the Little Helicopter" in the United States. Bob's agency and Sleepy Kids are throwing a swanky party to introduce Her Royal Highness, and most tastefully, of course, to present the Budgie licensing opportunities.

Bob and his troops have been hard at work. So far seven licensees have been signed, including Hallmark for greeting cards and party ware, Deespun for a line of children's clothing, and Nylint Corp. for plastic toy hangars and helicopters.

In addition, a Budgie TV show and home video are in the works, animated by the guy who did "Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles."

The Budgie character is aimed at what the Launey people call the preschool-plus market.

I can vouch for this positioning because Bob gave me a video of three U.K. episodes of Budgie to try out on my two granddaughters. Ramsay, 2, was more interested in getting her hands on the Chex mix, but Candace, who just turned 5, was quite taken by Budgie and his gang.

Interviewed after her viewing, Candace told this reporter: "I like him. He's cute and he's carrying a stuffed bear. I like the stories." I thought it was most perceptive of Candace to note some of the smaller details of the helicopter, don't you?

The Duchess of York, who I have refrained from calling Fergie until now, has written four Budgie books (the character was so named because her real-life helicopter was so much smaller than the one Prince Andrew piloted), published by Simon & Schuster.

Can "Budgie meets Barney" be far ahead?

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