The best endorsement of a company is the quality of the clients it attracts and its ability to retain them.
By such standards, Link’s Licensing and Entertainment divisions have made significant inroads into the children’s sector.
Companies that turned to Link in its early years have stayed loyal. Thames, which brought Count Duckula to Link, has retained the company for a decade. Mattel, which uses Link on Barbie’s U.K. licensing, has retained the company since 1990.
‘Link has done a wonderful job on Barbie in terms of the depth of what they have achieved,’ says Mike Redfern, the managing director of Copywrite Stationery, ‘and in our case, Barbie has become a cornerstone of the business.’
In fact, Link’s clients find it difficult to stop short at professional endorsements. ‘We love Link,’ says Karen Davidsen, the producer of Hibbert Ralph’s The Forgotten Toys, for which Link raised pre-production finances.
‘They are one of the most reliable companies in the business,’ says Nickelodeon UK managing director Janie Grace. ‘They are wonderful to work with and stand head and shoulders above others. There aren’t many companies you can hand on heart say you trust.’
The message is similarly strong from the U.S., where Linda Kahn, senior vice president programming and distribution at Scholastic Productions, says, ‘Link is a fantastic company with a great deal of integrity and creativity.’
Hibbert Ralph’s first association with Link came through a recommendation from the BBC. ‘We worked together on a 13 x 5-minute series called Spider,’ says Davidsen. ‘Link was the distributor and did a great job. Claire Derry is great fun and you can tell she’s a good business woman. She gets on well with buyers at MIP and MIPCOM.’
Woodland Animations managing director Josiane Wood agrees. ‘Claire knows her job so well it’s unbelievable. She will tell you straight away ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a project. And Link is really dedicated to children’s programming. They don’t leave it sitting on a shelf.’
Link first started working with Woodland three or four years ago and handles characters such as Charlie Chalk, Bertha and Gran. Wood says that the company is ‘very professional, but also very friendly. They are not high and mighty. We can pick up the phone and ask for advice anytime.’
One characteristic that Hibbert Ralph’s Davidsen confirms is that Link ‘d’esn’t interfere with the creative side. We talk three or four times a day, but they leave us to get on with it. They work really hard and share our belief in quality programming.’
Link’s ability to work with quality animation producers is demonstrated by a number of its client relationships. It handles properties for two Oscar winners in the shape of Aardman Animations and Bob Godfrey, as well as TVC, which produced the perennial Christmas classic The Snowman.
In the case of Scholastic’s Kahn, the association with Link stretches back to 1983. ‘I met them 13 years ago when I was buying programs for Nickelodeon. I didn’t meet them in a licensing capacity until we appointed them as our agent for Magic School Bus and Goosebumps.’
Following a series of pitches, Kahn picked Link for the U.K. licensing role. ‘They are a thoughtful company with a genuine understanding of the marketplace. They really care for properties and know how to dovetail them with the marketplace. They came to us with terrific proposals.’
Janie Grace tells a similar story. ‘I met Claire about seven years ago in France and since then, we’ve been on numerous industry panels together. She has a very good business brain and a clear vision of the marketplace.’
Grace recognizes the value in having a marketing and a financial head in the company. ‘They never overpromise and are careful about the projects they choose.’ She shares Davidsen’s view that ‘they recognize their core competence and are not trying to be producers.’
Plaudits don’t stop with Derry and Hamilton. Both Jo Kavanagh and David Llewellyn-Jones are commended by entertainment clients for their ‘full knowledge of the characters. It’s such a comfort for producers.’
If there is one other benchmark by which you might choose to judge a company, it is the willingness of investors to put up development funds. In this respect, the financial injection by Guinness Mahon Development Capital (GMDC) must speak volumes about the company’s perceived value.
GMDC is familiar with the children’s market, having helped finance Britt Allcroft’s Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends. Its managing director Gordon Power views ‘the investment in Link as a good example of the type of opportunity we continue to seek in the fast-growing and dynamic rights market.’