What Was Missing From This Year's Licensing Expo

Beanstalk Group's Michael Stone's Observations From the Final Day in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AdAge.com) -- On the final day of the Licensing International Expo, things here are definitely winding down. My biggest observation, which may not come as a huge surprise, is that the licensing industry serves as a microcosm of how the current economic climate has constrained so many industries.

CAA announced Tony Hawk's line of teen mulitvitamins.
CAA announced Tony Hawk's line of teen mulitvitamins.
More than anything else, I have been struck by the things that seem to be missing at this year's Expo.

Here is an accounting of what I have not seen at this year's Expo:

No major celebrity deals. If you are one of those people exasperated by the seemingly endless supply of celebrity licensing deals taking over retailers' shelves, you may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Of course there have been celebrity properties represented here, but nothing extraordinary or game changing. For example, Creative Artists Agency announced that Eva Mendes will be doing a home-decor line with Macy's, and Tony Hawk has launched a line of teen multivitamins. But not much else new is going on in this space.

No internet/high-tech properties. For all the talk of the power of social networking to facilitate the business of licensing, internet and high-tech brands have been noticeably absent. With the exception of eBay, there is almost no representation from this industry. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dell and Yahoo are some of the world's most recognized brands, but they seem to have missed the boat on the power of licensing and brand extensions.

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What Happens at the Licensing Expo Won't Stay in Vegas
Beanstalk Group's Michael Stone Trendspots for Ad Age on Day One

No publishing, apparel or luxury. The publishing, apparel and luxury industries have been among the hardest hit in the current economic downturn. So it's no surprise they have been nearly nonexistent as exhibitors or attendees. Of course there are some present. For example, Lamborghini and Scholastic are both here. But in the case of Scholastic, which does have a big presence, it is really pushing its entertainment properties.

No buzzworthy studio blockbusters for 2010 or 2011. While properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers are here, the buzz around these franchises is for 2009 and those deals were all done last year. There doesn't seem to be much on the horizon for 2010 or 2011. The biggest studio pushes seem to be around the return of Tintin for Paramount, Gatchaman from independent studio Imagi and Stretch Armstrong from Universal.

No green initiatives. Green and sustainability was high on everyone's agenda last year and this year it almost feels like an afterthought (so much for sustainability!). Planet Earth and WWF (a Beanstalk client), among a handful of others, are still pushing this agenda, but unfortunately they are the exception, not the rule.

None of these observations are a criticism of the show itself, but rather a criticism of the apparent paralysis that has gripped our related industries. Like all industries, we will not pull ourselves out of difficult economic times by going backward or worse -- doing nothing. Growth and innovation must come from within the industry or it's not likely to come at all.

See you next year in Las Vegas?

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Michael Stone is president-CEO of the Beanstalk Group, an Omnicom Group-owned global brand licensing consultancy.

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