7 Insights About Product Placement You Need To Know


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It's Magic.  Or So People Think...

Product placement seems like mystical marketing magic to many people.  I know this is a belief held by many, as I'm part of an agency CEO group who knows my business inside and out - and despite their insights, they still seem to think we pull rabbits out of a magicians hat on a regular basis.

I've been doing this for so long, that while it doesn't (ever) seem easy, and no partnership is without its challenges, I have learned that there are commonalities that serve as a guide to ensure success.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares 7 insights you really need to know before you start utilizing this marketing practice.

7 Insights To Product Placement You Need To Know (1)

#1 Best Practices & Common Mistakes Of Product Placement

The ultimate best practice that brands need to keep in mind with product placement is that you need to be in the game in order to win. 

Brands who hop in and out, and who don’t want to expend the energy and time (and money) to create a solid plan in Hollywood are not going to score as many goals as those brands who build relationships and find was to help the Hollywood community create the art of film and TV. 

And it is a relationship, an art, a creative process, and a conversation.  You cannot expect to shoehorn in a brand without it making sense to the overall production, as the result will be either too over the top and offensive to viewers, or will immediately turn off the executive production team who is literally casting the brand to be part of the content.

#2 It's Not Always About The Money

There are so many ways to approach product placement in a manner that provides wins for many – and it is not always driven by money.  Making product available is actually the number one way to be successful in Hollywood.

Check out these videos on how BlackBerry and FLIR have done exactly that.  By making their product very accessible, they have both reaped the rewards of thankful productions.

We have created massive success for many brands who did not have high financial resources to continuously pay for fee based integration after fee based integration – but who did have the ability to provide a large amount of inventory for productions to be able to use (and use again on the next and next and next production). 

Beyond high-ticket fee based deals, there are other needs where lower dollar amounts can make major inroads to relationship building – from helping with wrap parties or crew thank you gifting.  There are many ways to approach product placement, and it requires a strategy to be built, and an agency that has the reputation and experience to build that strategy and relationship.

Brands need to also understand that not every product placement is going to make it on screen. Scenes get cut.  Or the director decides to have the lighting darker, and now the brand can’t be seen as well.  If money is being paid to the production, the contract we’ve negotiated will protect the brand and they won’t owe money unless specific outlined requirements have been met. If product was sent to the set, it will be moved on to another set. And life goes on – the relationship is what is important, and Hollywood is eager to work with brands who understand that the brand cannot control the overall creative process or result.  There is always another movie or TV show around the corner that will be a fit.

FOR FLIR, what is so great about film and TV is that there is a storyline opportunity for every type of product line we have.  Whether that is government usage in Warner Bros’ Rampage with the military or in CBS’ Seal Team, firefighting in FOX’s 911, police usage on NBC’s Chicago PD, wildlife documentary filming with Nat Geo’s Safari Live: Migration, an actual full secondary storyline with principal characters built out in Netflix’s Ozark featuring our marine division line,  or even a trade show in HBO’s Silicon Valley, we are able to showcase real world usage of our product lines and company to core targeted business consumers.  With our product placement program, we’ve partnered with over 80 different Hollywood movies and TV shows, receiving over 180 confirmed exposures for FLIR – and reaching over 1 billion viewers through the content they enjoy watching.

product placement guide

#3 There Is No Rate Card For Product Placement

There is no financial set model for production companies. There is no rate card. There is no pay this, get that.  Every single solitary conversation comes from a point of the production wanting the most they can get, and there are factors that drive whether that will happen or not.

There are no set prices for brand integration. Pricing is based on show popularity, A-list cast level, franchise property - and by individual producer. CPM (cost per thousand) is not a factor considered by producers. A small very niche audience may be priced similarly to a production with a very large general audience. it all depends on the show. A limited number of options exist to build show partnerships outside of the content environment and are driven by PR stunt ideas and co-branded promotional advertising.

We typically negotiate multiple episodes within a single TV or SVOD series for scripted content to reinforce viewer engagement. Partnerships are negotiated individually with each show's producer. 

We work with the content producers and writers to build brands directly into the storyline with primary characters by creating verbal mentions, scripted messaging, key insert product shots or deeply embedded brand story elements. Productions get fees paid to them to make the extra effort to provide an advertising platform for your brands. Productions and brands have different agendas – and typically don’t quite understand one another - and Hollywood Branded's expertise brings the brand and production each together to create an organic partnership that truly benefits each party through our experience and understanding of both brand and production needs and goals.

Each partnership build is a creative process that is fully customized for the brand to best fit organically within the production content.

#4 Expect Lighting Fast Response Needs... Or A Total Drought

Product placement (and brand integration) works at a very fast-speed.  Scripts are written – and rewritten – within a week.  Productions are greenlit, staffed and a ‘go’ very quickly – and there is a very small window to actually have the conversations needed to get a brand to become part of a scene.  We get in new scripts every single day, and have conversations with productions in the weeks ahead and into their filming cycle.  Last minute changes occur – daily. Sets are scrapped, scenes are rewritten, and new needs occur.  Brands need to think ahead, and those that are most successful have that proverbial ‘bucket of money’ set aside for opportunities that come up at the last minute – and which will often cost much less because if the production doesn’t find a partner, then it has no time to search out competition and do a price war.

We have brands who want to pre-plan a year out – and we can do that, but they need to realize shoots pop up, and get moved around.  And brands who can be nimbler and jump on opportunities are the ones that are going to win big.

#5 Your Media Agency Isn't Going To Hear About All The Opportunities

For the broadcast networks, product placement (or in their terms, brand integration because money is being paid) is often included in Upfront conversations when marketers are first making their ad buying decisions.

But even in those cases, our agency is typically brought in by our clients to actually negotiate and oversee the partnership as this is what we do day in, and day out – and we know how to avoid potential stumbles and make the partnership as seamless and organic as it can be.   

But even when conversations are going on at the Upfronts – you have to understand that scripts haven’t been written. Storylines are not detailed. And unless you are a square type of brand that is going to fit into the square peg they are trying to pre-build as an Upfront conversation, you aren’t going to get very far in those conversations.  The ad sales team at the networks can only do so much – it really comes down to the director and writers, and the right storyline, to make a brand’s partnership shine.

And that is long after the Upfronts conclude. And that is where we prove major value to our brand and agency clients.

Plus there is all that content that isn't served up at ad meetings.  Like ad-free Netflix and Amazon.  Or feature films at the studios.  And even if you do have an in at a studio - what about the hundreds of independent feature films that shoot every year, that are helmed by producers who aren't talking with a studio until long after the final edit of the film is complete.

Just like this Bumble dating and relationship app partnership.  Paramount was not even in the conversation as a studio partner when we began negotiating and shooting the scenes for Book Club.

Yep. No worries. We have you covered.  Those are the relationships that drive our business on a daily basis, year after year.  And which result in mega starring roles for our clients.

how your product placement program works

#6 Measurement To Success

All of our projects provide measurement based on the algorithms we have created over the last 13 years.  Some metrics were created in partnership with Nielsen, as we participated in a beta study with them on the impact of product placement and received some proprietary measurement estimates from that, which have continued to be tweaked. 

Our measurement has been vetted by countless agencies of all sizes - and brands - over the years, and I’d say we are extremely conservative.

Especially as we don’t account for future airings of the content (example: film to airline flights to home entertainment to SVOD to cable to TV). 

Additionally, we work with Concave Brand Tracking and other third-party measurement providers upon a client's request, or we can run surveys, and with additional budgets for such measurement. 

But typically our clients don’t want to spend the money to run those studies as they can approach a substantial portion (or even more!) of what the integration cost in the first place.  On occasion we’ll use reports by other companies as well when a client needs a 3rd party to validate.

When the client provides insight access to Google analytics, website traffic and social analytics we can see some bumps typically there – and sometimes massive bumps.

Same with sales if there is a spike that is trackable.  It all depends on the size of the brand and what other advertising or influencer initiatives are going on at that same time too.

We still utilize Nielsen for 3rd party verification of audience size, when available. Obviously OTT platforms do not offer any options for true audience size verification, and we guesstimate based on digging for as many stats as possible, and what those platforms share. 

We also run individual customized surveys for clients when there is interest in doing so, to measure viewer retention and feedback.

#7 The PR And Social Angle

Social conversations and PR generated from placements are absolutely something we measure as well. We love looking at metrics, and we use Critical Mention as our partner for media mentions, and some of our placements have garnered incredible additional exposure through PR and social media.

Don't always assume either that you can do social posts about a partnership, or that you can just write a press release.  The reality kinda truthfully sucks - you can't. With some exceptions and loopholes.  Unless of course you have negotiated that as part of the overall partnership, and even then there will be limitations. 

I believe that a brand should absolutely be involved in social media and media conversations – no one today lives in a silo where the brand has to pretend they don’t know what is going on.  But certain networks and streaming platforms don't share that same belief. We have clients who whoop it up and share their glee and excitement – it is contagious.

We also have clients who will join in social conversations to point out that some movie magic was used. For example – FLIR is a thermal camera company (very large massive company in fact) and it’s important for them to have their thermal camera equipment used accurately.  

With that said, we have plenty of ghost hunter, big foot and yeti storylines that use the cameras to show the paranormal – not something they sell their product specifically for, but it’s fun, and people understand that.

We also have firefighting and police procedural dramas and films – like the that Hobbs & Shaw, that uses their thermal camera to see through doors. 

Well, their gear doesn’t actually work like that – thermal cameras see changes in heat, and can’t see through certain materials, like concrete and steel.  So when they had the massive exposure in Hobbs & Shaw, they made sure to call out movie magic before their very ardent customers might call out the ‘mistake’ – as it isn’t a mistake – it’s movie magic, and powerful branding.

Ready To Get Your Product Placement Program Rolling?

Here are some more blogs our team has written that you might find helpful on product placement. 

Ready for even MORE information?  Then download our Product Placement and Promotions 101 Guide as this is THE e-book on how product placement works!

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide