The most unusual aspect of the Italian licensing market is the absence of preschool as a sector of any importance. And the reasons for that have a lot to do with the way the market is changing.
"For a long time," asserts Grazia Caimi, managing director of CPLG Italy, "fashion brands drove the Italian licensing market." This, she explains, is because Italians see their children as small adults and therefore they buy the same brands for their kids as they buy for themselves.
However, Caimi now sees a growing demand for animation characters but is keen to stress that "this is a reflection of changing tastes of adults and not a change in the way in which they perceive their children." Animation series and movies, she explains, "are increasingly seen as very funny and are flexible enough to be used in an appealing way for both adults and children."
One interesting consequence of this view of children as microadults is that in Italy preschool is a tough sell. This is precisely because very few preschool characters have this degree of flexibility, and if the adults don't want them for themselves, then they won't buy them for their children, either.
For Sissel Henno, international licensing manager at Entertainment Rights, however, the key trend is retro. Henno insists, "The trend for retro brands has been strong for some time," and further, "it is likely to remain so for some time to come." Henno believes that there are a number of factors behind this demand. "The application of televisual technology is enhancing classic brands, allowing their reinvigoration, and there are many exciting propositions around the corner," she says. In support of this last claim, Henno cites the forthcoming Warner Bros.' movie He Man, Disney's reintroduction of The Lone Ranger and this year's 60th anniversary of Casper.
One of the biggest boys properties across Europe is only just launching its licensing program in Italy. Ben 10, already a hit on TV in the country, starts product rollout with Giochi Preziosi distributing master toy licensee Bandai's collection this month. More than 20 other deals have been signed with Turner Enterprises for the property, including with Mondo, BBS, Edibas, Auguri Preziosi, Easy Shoes, Grani and Partners and Marini Silvano.
A live action Ben 10 movie also is planned, while "Ben 10 Alien Force" launches in Italy in 2010.
According to Maria Rosaria Milone, territory manager for Italy, Greece and Turkey at Turner CN Enterprises: "Consumer awareness of the brand is high, and there is an evident level of pent-up demand for related consumer products. We look forward to replicating in Italy the incredible success that we have seen across the EMEA region."
Both Caimi and Henno agree that toys are the leading product category and that food promotions are an especially important sector in the Italian licensing business. Caimi also believes BTS is important and that "apparel is growing up," an observation with which Henno concurs, also noting that "some of the leading Italian toy manufacturers, such as Giochi Preziosi have developed strong brands of their own such as, in their case, the Gormiti toys."
She goes on to say, "There seems to be an increasing interest in taking licenses to cater to different segments of the market and to allow for a broader range of products."