Maurizio Distefano Licensing is the lead licensing agency in Italy, which has recently achieved important figures and significant development in local and international markets.
On the occasion of the latest Licensing Magazine’s issue, founders Maurizio Distefano and Michela Marchese Patti granted LM an exclusive interview, to discuss in more detail recent projects and their most interesting news.
Maurizio Distefano Licensing is a high-level international licensing agency. How do you currently support licensors and licensees, and how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Thank you very much for this question, which allows us to explain our approach to licensing. One of the specific competitive advantages of our agency is our innovative strategy, which allows us to analyse the specific business needs of each licensee and carry out marketing activities that support individual projects as well as a brand’s visibility.
In just a few years in business we have grown very quickly, becoming the leading licensing agency in Italy and the second in Europe. This has been a tremendous recognition of our work.
We support licensees at every phase of the creation, development, and launch of a licensing plan through to delivering a tailored-made project for each client. Another great strength of ours is that we manage every stage within our agency in order to better serve our licensees and also to have control of the whole business. We offer a comprehensive package with a team of ten people entirely dedicated to each licensing project. All company functions are therefore covered directly by our staff, who receive specialized training in each of the operational areas (sales, marketing, retail, product development, social media, administration, etc…)
Among the many properties in your portfolio, which are trending now?
We are really proud to say that our portfolio contains the strongest preschool properties of the moment. Among these, Bing is the brand that is producing the greatest results; Bluey, CoComelon, Masha and the Bear, are also generating strong interest from the market. As for the young adult or adult target, LIFE, Corto Maltese, bands and musical artists like Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and David Bowie are the most popular.
Would you give us an overview of your strongest preschool IPs?
For our agency, Bing continues to be the number one property for the 1- 4-year-old audience, both in terms of ratings and consumer products sales numbers. The series is broadcast daily on Rai Yoyo with record ratings and is available at any time on Rai Play. Rai decided to invest even further in the series by also broadcasting four episodes in English in the morning slot. Our agency has signed more than 50 licensing agreements for Bing with the leading Italian companies in the industry.
Another winning bet has been Bluey. It debuted on Rai Yoyo in December 2021, following its huge success on Disney + across the globe. The third series was launched on Disney + in Italy this August. Our Italian toy distributor is Giochi Preziosi who has been very pleased with the market response since the very first launch. The toy line will be expanded again in Fall/Winter 2022, and the licensing program will continue to grow with many new licensees.
Beyond these properties, we have not yet seen much news on the horizon. The pandemic and consequent lockdown significantly reduced the opportunities to develop new series, which has really affected licensing. In our opinion, our properties are currently the ones that are performing the best in the Italian market.
Concerning digital properties, how is your big partnership with Moonbug progressing?
We are extremely happy with this new collaboration. On the one hand, we refer to ourselves as The evolution of Licensing, and we constantly try to grow. Moonbug Entertainment has entrusted us with the management of all its properties, including CoComelon, Blippi, My Magic Pet Morphle, and Little Angel among others… These phenomena were born on YouTube and immediately had incredible success on other media. We have observed changes in kids media consumption, with an ever stronger growth in the digital market.
CoComelon in particular is incredibly popular. It is a phenomenon that started on YouTube: anyone can see it on the web every day, as well as tablets and smartphones that now entertain younger children. It recently landed on Cartoonito, and we know that this new platform will bring even more awareness to this beautiful series.
The strength of Moonbug lies specifically in their great ability to create content, and in the universality of the themes in each episode. Our partnership is growing stronger, gradually including more business areas in which to collaborate and develop their IPs on several fronts, including digital. They are committed to fully developing the Italian market, which is a very lucrative market for licensing. Moonbug has already undertaken a series of marketing initiatives, both B2B and B2C, which will further boost the licensing program in the second half of this year.
What projects are you carrying out for the young adult target?
For this target, we are focusing on our strongest brands. For Corto Maltese we have developed a very prestigious clothing line. There are several other projects for artists and bands, and for LIFE, for which we are launching an apparel and accessories collection. It is certainly a target that we pay a lot of attention to, and that holds a lot of interest for our licensees. However, we make careful decisions about what the most suitable properties could be.
The young adult target usually allows for strong development in the Lifestyle category. For the LIFE brand, you have obtained a clothing partnership with Benetton, and another with Clementoni. Both projects were awarded at the latest Bologna Licensing Trade Fair. Would you tell us about these two collections?
The LIFE band gave us the opportunity to work with an international company like Benetton. Benetton fell in love with the brand and created a unique project through an excellent collaboration with our product development team. LIFE has proved to be the perfect brand for a client with such an innovative style. The strength of the project, which was reflected in the sales, is linked to the affordability of the magazine’s images, and the impact of the recognizable style, through a selection of the most beautiful LIFE photographs. This collection for men, women, and children has resulted in an iconic and high-end range. As mentioned, we also won with Clementoni, who chose LIFE to create a line of puzzles for adults and families. It was very interesting to explore how the puzzles turned out to be more than just a playful element, and actually acquired value as real design objects to be displayed in your home. In addition to the fun of assembling a puzzle, there is also the beauty of exhibiting these highly recognizable iconic photos, which have become true works of art. LIFE is a very flexible brand that allows you to develop products with a transversal target because it is suitable for children, adults, and both sexes. For this precise reason, licensees choose it happily, because they can maximize its value in all areas of their project.
Another innovative project is Charlotte M., an iconic creator and influencer who continues to deliver great results with many new features, including a new film starring her in the leading role. Can you tell us more about this latest work, and reveal the brand’s news on the consumer products front?
Charlotte M. is an ever-growing success. She is very young but multitalented and professional, a perfect personality for various licensing projects. She was also cast as a voice actress in an animated film that will be released in theatres between November and December of this year. The feature film, in which she plays the leading role of an actress and a singer, was shot at the beginning of the summer. The release is scheduled for Q1 2023, to the delight of the millions of fans who follow all her adventures and activities. We can’t reveal too much, but let’s just say that her personality was perfectly reflected in the story, and the film will open up many novelties. There is a lot of excitement over this release, and we are already working on several other related projects: a sequel will be made in 2023, and there will also be a television series. We will keep you updated on these developments and the dates of upcoming releases.
As for consumer products, the list of companies that will license the creator is long, and this season there are several licensees on board already, with many new products on the market. For example, Mondadori for publishing, Giochi Preziosi for toys and back-to-school (including a line of backpacks and paper products available on all shelves), Easy Shoes for footwear, Salati Preziosi with potato chips, Dolci Preziosi with Easter Eggs, Mitama for slime and fluo pens, and Grani for the kiosk sector.
Other interesting properties are those related to world-famous music groups. In which categories are you developing them?
Products inspired by musical bands find their greatest response in softlines and accessories. We have already completed several projects and are still developing many others. The Italian market is very receptive to these types of licenses, perhaps because until recently, before our agency was appointed for these bands, it had not been possible to obtain a license through a local representative. The licensees who work with us now have the advantage of choosing the graphics, deciding which band to sign and above all having the complete service that our agency can guarantee. Many Italian licensees have grown to understand and appreciate what we offer, which includes any musical styles they may be interested in: between bands and artists, we have more than 130 musical IPs on our roster. Our most rewarding contracts are in the apparel category. The strongest bands are classics like Pink Floyd, AC/DC, David Bowie, etc. which give the collections a vintage and timeless feeling. When going through times of crisis like now, people tend to revert to brands from the past, which remind them of better times. By purchasing a licensing product linked to nostalgic brands, happy memories can be relived. The collections also have the advantage of being multi-target. Both us boomers – who have known the artists since our youth – and younger generations who have heard about them and listened to their music, like them. This helps the licensee maximize product development and sales.
What are you planning for the future?
We will continue to cultivate our strengths, a combination of a careful selection of properties, which is a specialty our agency offers our clients, and active support throughout the licensing process. Our objectives are long-term, we do not live for the day but we have broad-spectrum projects, to continue offering our licensees the most innovative options for the Italian market in the sectors in which we operate: preschool, the world of brands, music, creators, celebrities… Companies and markets have changed a lot since Covid, which is also why our agency wants to continue to maintain the high level of service we provide, to facilitate, simplify and improve the product of our licensees, to satisfy their needs, and those of the licensors we represent. It will always be important for us to keep a careful eye on current and future trends, presenting ourselves on the market as per our slogan, an agency in constant evolution.