Quite a character
Q: Who do I talk to in order to find out about character licensing?
A: A brand owner looking to operate a character-led campaign will need to deal with property owners or the agencies that represent them.
A first point of contact could be the International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association (LIMA), which all the main players belong to (020 7937 0880; email@example.com).
The Licensing Company represents South Park in the UK (020 7368 0066).
Other properties it handles include Purple Ronnie, Sesame Street, and the Lord of the Rings film due out next year. The agency also expects big business from Blue Clues, a pre-school TV series from Nickelodeon that has been a hit in the US.
Another big player is CPLG, a worldwide organisation with lots of the top names on its books, such as Star Wars, Mr Men, Dennis the Menace, and Max Steel (020 7580 7431).
You could also contact the big studios directly. Twentieth Century Fox controls the rights to the Simpsons (020 7437 7766) and Warner Brothers Consumer Products handles Harry Potter (020 7984 6100).
Q: Can you recommend an agency that sends ads to mobile phones?
A: Text messaging took off 18 months ago when the mobile networks agreed to let their customers send messages to rivals. Now half a billion messages are sent every month.
Messages can be up to 160 characters, a bit more than is needed to accommodate the average limerick. The space can be maximised by using standard short cuts such as CUL8R for 'see you later'.
But mobile phone advertising involves the same constraints and pitfalls as e-mail, and marketers need to avoid 'spamming' users randomly with unsolicited messages. A good way round this is to work with service providers whose members have agreed to be contacted with offers.
One is Boltblue, which sends information such as jokes, horoscopes, and weather reports to its user base. Members can also use the service to check the first lines of their e-mail messages or personalise their phones with ring-tones and icons.
This is ideal for targeting the youth market and has been used effectively by computer game makers. It is also useful for marketing time-sensitive products such as cinema and travel tickets, or prompting impulse buys such as a takeaway pizza.
The company says one successful approach is to tack a brief advertisement onto the end of an information message such as a weather or travel report.
This need not take up more than 40 characters and costs around pounds 50 per thousand. E-mail the company for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can you tell me where I can get branded sandwich containers?
A: These can be sourced from Goldleaf, which supplies clear plastic 'wedges' in cartons of 960 each. Cost is around 5p for singles, 7p for trebles, with discounts for quantity.
You will also need labels, which cost around pounds 300 for 10,000 and require a lead time of at least a week or two.
Call 020 8517 6222; or try Global Sourcing 020 7323 5897.
Q: Is there an agency that will do mystery shopping on the telephone?
A: Any selling or service channel can be checked by company representatives posing as customers. Where the phone is involved, they will call to see if your operators are using the standard greeting and that the call is handled professionally. Where appropriate they will also confirm that the operator is pressing for a sale.
Capital Event Management says most of its mystery shopping is done face-to-face, but it can also handle telephone work. As a guide to cost it says it will put a member of staff out for four hours for pounds 90, before expenses.
Call 01784 473699 or try The Bluewater Agency, 01296 689089; Creative Sampling 0131 6683867.
E-mail enquiries should be sent to email@example.com.