LOS ANGELES Cue that old time rock 'n roll and tell Saatchi the news: Warner Bros. Consumer Products today launched the WB Clip Library, a creative research tool containing more than 1,000 of the studio's properties that can be searched by ad agencies, clearance firms or anyone else looking to streamline the complicated process of clearing rights of entertainment properties for use in ads.
The site, which launches this week to coincide with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, capitalizes on an increasing interest among brands to use classic movie clips and other pop cultural references in their advertising, and for studios to exploit a relatively untapped side of their assets. The current state of the licensing business is stagnant: Royalty revenues declined 5.6 percent last year and are expected to slip even more when 2009 numbers are calculated, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association. But clip catalogs are poised for growth.
"We wanted to position the library as a resource for the community, as a one-stop shop," said Dave Hedrick, svp, food and promotions, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. He speculates that his business will see a 15-20 percent annual growth thanks to the more streamlined approach to clip management.
The database, which is the industry's largest film library, contains more than 1,000 Warner Bros. properties, including assets from the studio along with units DC Comics, Turner, Castle Rock, New Line Cinema and Hanna-Barbera, among others. Clients can enter a film or TV title, or search by other criteria, such as actor. If they don't have a title in mind and want to do a broader search, they can enter genre, such as "1940s MGM musicals" (which WB owns) or "film noir." The site does not showcase movie scenes, but instead the info needed to get a deal going: trailers and one-sheets, printable search results, local representative details and a shopping cart inquiries service to facilitate the conversation with a rep.
An upcoming WBCP deal will feature library clips from the films The Searchers and Woodstock in a MasterCard Priceless commercial by McCann Erickson later this summer. WBCP properties can also be seen in several current campaigns. Breyers' Smooth and Dreamy launched Webisodes with Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) and Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind, while Activision continues to use the iconic air guitar socks-and-underwear scene from Risky Business for its Guitar Hero brand. On the international front, Toyota Prius is using Superman/Clark Kent in a Japanese Super Hybrid Car campaign as a stand-in for the brand's heroic status, and Orange ads in the U.K. features the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.
Of course, opening up a creative library can be a sensitive issue, too: No studio wants to get heat for reanimating the corpse of Fred Astaire and forcing it to dance with a Dirt Devil. Everything is about context, Hedrick said, so deals will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
"We look at how [the property or character] is being positioned," he said. "We've turned down deals because it doesn't feel right. We went through that with Gone With the Wind. It's a classic, but it's a kitchsy classic -- it goes back to the Carol Burnett Show and the curtain rod dress. We felt we were laughing with it rather than at it."
Then there was the brand that wanted to do an ad that involved a colostomy bag joke. "We didn't OK that one," Hedrick said, laughing. "To filmmakers, these titles are their babies."