What can you say about the Licensing Awards which hasn’t been said before? It is always an entertaining night – the licensing community loves a party and as a networking event, you could argue that it is peerless. As much as any industry I have ever worked in, licensing revolves around relationships; perhaps even more so, as licensors are often selling an idea, a dream, a promise that something not as yet fully formed is going to evolve into something beautiful – and successful. To do that, a huge amount of trust is needed on both sides of the partnership – and those bonds of trust are often forged and deepened at events like this.
The audience comprises a mix of leading licensors, licensees and retailers, along with many other people who have business that revolves around the world of licensing. The big hitters from all sides of the fence are there, making it a place to see and be seen. In short, for one night every September, it’s the place to be if you are a licensing mover and shaker. A whopping 1200 people were in attendance this year – so if you missed seeing a few industry friends and colleagues over the course of the evening, it is perhaps no great surprise (I haven’t actually been to the event for around six years, as it nearly always clashes with my wedding anniversary – although if I had said to people “I was there, but I didn’t see you”, I bet no-one would have been any the wiser).
Once the initial – and all too brief – air kissing, hugging and champagne quaffing reception finished, guests took their seats and observed a minute’s silence in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, before settling in for what is traditionally the longest award ceremony any of us is likely to attend all year – and last night was no exception. For over four hours (two and a half football matches!), we sat at our tables while a seemingly never-ending list of winners headed to the stage to collect their awards. It made the Oscars feel like the half time entertainment at the Superbowl – although thank goodness there were no speeches, or we would probably still be there now, with people waking up as Tom Allen announced the award for the best licensed tissue box or something equally thrilling. Sometimes, it felt like the entire team or company went up to collect their trophy; on the one hand that’s nice, as it shows just how delighted they were to be recognised, but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything for the length of proceedings.
Around halfway through the awards – approximately two hours in according to the notes scribbled in my programme – it was evident that the crowd was starting to get restless, and poor host Tom Allen began to lose the audience. Eventually, he had to resort to bellowing “Shut up! Be quiet!” in a vain attempt to stop the crowd from talking and ignoring what was happening on stage – and Tom is very funny, engaging and extremely good at what he does, so you’ve got to feel for him. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what I say – financial considerations (probably £10k+ sponsorship and ticket sales for each extra award) mean that all those in attendance have little choice but to buckle up and strap in for the long haul.
By the time the awards finally drew to a close (approaching midnight), many people had to leave shortly afterwards – when what they would really love to have done would be to mix and mingle with their peers for an hour or two, congratulating the winners, commiserating with the nominees who didn’t come up trumps this time, catching up on all the latest news and gossip and enjoying all of the entertainment that had been laid on for the rest of the evening. It’s just a shame so many had to miss that.
Before the awards were handed out, there was a great video presentation celebrating the incredible achievements of the Light Fund Channel swimmers – it really brought home how difficult conditions were. Fittingly, the man who came up with and drove the whole amazing caper – Stephen Gould – was given the Honorary Achievement Award for his contributions to the Light Fund over many years – a fantastic and well-deserved accolade.
As for the awards themselves, many were greeted with nods of approval, while others were met with surprise and occasionally even incredulity – just like most award ceremonies, there is always going to be the odd curveball or random winner that few saw coming. To be fair, the winners aren’t always based on commercial success, which undoubtedly throws a few people who are used to more traditional award ceremonies which are heavily predicated around sales performance.
But gripes about the length of proceedings aside, you can’t deny that it is a remarkable achievement to pull an event of that magnitude together. To all the winners, congratulations. And to all the nominees who didn’t get lucky this time round, there is always next year (and who knows, maybe half a dozen new categories to chance your arm in).
Finally, in case you missed the announcement earlier this week, there have been some important revisions to the build-up timetable and opening hours for BLE next week. Credit to organiser Anna Knight and the whole Informa team for taking swift and decisive action to react to the timing of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday. The show will now open its doors at 12.00 on opening day, but the boulevard will be available all morning for meetings – I hope Costa Coffee and the other restaurants thank Informa for the extra business that will no doubt be coming their way for the first few hours. The Licensing.biz team is looking forward to seeing you all at ExCeL and here’s hoping for another well-attended, vibrant, successful BLE event.