Whitehouse Leisure has the rights to the current golden egg in the world of plush toys, in the shape of Angry Birds. Unlike most licences, it doesn’t have any kind of star name, and the base product it grew from is a free app to download on Android devices, iPhone and iPad. It’s never had a huge marketing drive, but its user base is continually growing
With a licence like Angry Birds, timing is everything.
Had the company bought into it two years ago, it might have been cheaper, but the base for its success would have been that much smaller, and the character recognition lower, making it much more of a gamble.
The investment appears to be paying off handsomely for Whitehouse, even though the firm only holds the rights for the amusements side. Business development executive Ian Whittingham told us: “Angry Birds is something of a phenomenon, a licence that doesn’t get big by what you might call the usual routes. There’s no star name or huge marketing budget, it’s just a great game that keeps on growing.
“These products are few and far between. I remember Pokemon coming along in the late 1990s, and that would fall in the same category. For 18 months they were the hottest must-have product out there. I was an operator back then, and you couldn’t guarantee your delivery because there was such demand for the product. The games we had it on and the cranes were the best-performing that year. This year – and last year – it’s the same with Angry Birds, it’s the must-have product.
Whitehouse also holds the right to distribute Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, again just for amusements. Explains Whittingham: “With the Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, a company called Golden Bear is the master toy licensee and we’re buying the product via them purely for the amusements industry.”
Now that Whitehouse Leisure has seen the potential for a game licence to be realised in the world of plush, the firm is busy looking for the next Angry Birds, with a product called Cut the Rope currently being tested in the UK, though not on the same scale as Angry Birds. Whitehouse also distributes Moshi Monsters, which the company feels is most likely to be the next Angry Birds.
At the other end of the spectrum for the company is the newly-acquired Disney licence, for which it holds an exclusive agreement to distribute within the UK and Ireland.
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