9 Reasons Why Programmatic Scheduling Won't Work For Product Placement


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In today's advertising world, programmatic software seems to be the end-all-be-all for advertisers.  While many media agencies have been using various software formats for digital media buys, television ad buying is still pretty new.  And the tactic of trying to create programmatic buying for product placement is just around the corner.  Some early developers have tried to create an easy turnkey solution to 'buy' product placement' - and all have failed to date. 

In this blog Hollywood Branded looks at the reasons why current tries at programmatic scheduling software is not a benefit to brand marketers.  


What It Is

By general definition, programmatic advertising was created to help automate the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific audiences and demographics.

Basically, opportunities for advertisers are loaded into a software system, which then can spit out what content - be it digital or televised - the advertiser can buy around.  You can segment your search by specifics, including audience composites and size.

Content shared in these software scheduling programs may include:

  • Display
  • Mobile
  • Video
  • Social
  • Search
  • TV

 A Little Background

As an agency specializing in product placement, we get to see new 'advances' long before the general advertiser or brand manager.  And we are always working to keep our own agency at the head of these advances, one of which is a state of the art database we use internally to keep track of new production opportunities.

But this database - and all others similar to it - don't do product placement justice.  It's a relationship business in the true sense of the word - working with creatives who don't want to sell out just for dollars - and brand marketers who need to have their brand messaging truly understood and shared to make it worthwhile.  Needless to say, there are many many moving parts to getting a product placement deal done.

Programmatic Product Placement Databases

There is one trend we know is being tried by competitors and software developers who are playing in the space, and we know it will only be growing.  And that trend is the development of databases that are shared which allows a brand marketer to THINK they have knowledge of the 'best' opportunities out there for product placement.

We don't agree with it not because it would make our agency obsolete (trust us, it won't be doing that).  But because it's just not a 'win-win' for either the content creator or the brand.

All it truly allows for is an entry card to show that each side acknowledges that there might be an interest to discuss.  

Why It Doesn't Work For Product Placement

Unless something major changes in the way Hollywood communicates within its production structure, programmatic scheduling for product placement is something that is only a brand nightmare in waiting for those who truly understand the practice.

1. Relationships.

Relationships are IT when it comes to product placement.  The entire industry practice is based upon who you know, what they share about the opportunity, and knowing how you can scratch the back of the content creator team with product, money or promotional support through media or retail.

And in fact, the relationships are with very key people on the set who need to be kept in the loop about what is going on with ad sales or with bigger deals through the producer's team - and which isn't currently done very successfully.  Unless you have a person advocating for the brand who has a relationship and the ability to connect the dots for a lot of people, and keep everyone on the same page.

2. Opportunities Aren't Scripted - They Are Created

When you read a script, every usage of a product is not called out. Typically it is just implied - or even more so, the script leaves it up to the readers imagination of what might fit.  So an opportunity isn't really there until there is a discussion. And usually a pretty detailed one at that.  And even then, there are no guarantees that it will make it in the final edit.

3. Context

Context of usage in a script is not easy always to define.  It might be a bad guy using a product, or it could be a bad guy that is so bad he's good using the product, and breaking every boundary a brand might have for not being in the show (Breaking Bad serves as a great example here... meth lab?  Villains?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But not so for the brands who jumped on the fan favorite series which had major water cooler talk and engagement.  Major success.

Scripts don't say, for example, Sally is walking through a grocery store as she looks at brand x, picks up brand y and stares adoringly at it, and makes fun of brand z.  

4.  Lack of Info

But the brands who see the production listed in a programmatic styled database format want to start pre-planning early in the game so they can manage budgets - but realistically that isn't typically an option. There is no 'known' opportunity except what might be mentioned in a script.  And the Director may change even that.  Script rewrites occur through filming.  And a month is considered a long time in this industry. Until the decision makers are hired on set, there is no one to consider the partnership. Nor is there often a cast committed (which a brand wants to truly consider an opportunity).  Or a filming start date. Or distribution date. Or location. Or...  And the information just isn't that readily available.  

5. Timing of Release Is...Unknown

It would be WONDERFUL to be able to tell a brand that there is an opportunity that will result being on screen during a specific time period GUARANTEED. And that works for some big box office films. But it doesn't work for most TV, SVOD (Streaming Video On Demand), Music Videos or independent feature films.  In fact, once the content is created, it then typically finds a home.  Which is fine for media buying. But not so fine for brands who actually want to be part of the filmed storyline.  

In fact, 'big deals' are often started from little conversations that just happen to occur because of the relationship with the brand's product placement agency.  Who then RACES to make everything happen by bringing in production partners to match potential release dates, with placement as an initial step, and a larger partnership later built out.

6. Timing of Production Start Is... Unknown

Hollywood is a hurry up and wait and GO GO GO atmosphere.  The individuals who are the decision makers on the sets aren't ready to talk about brand partnerships (unless they are in the mega millions) until the script is finalized.  And the script becoming finalized only happens a short time period before production starts.  And production starts very often at the last minute without a whole lot of buildup.  So a brand needs to be at the ready to also GO GO GO.  Some types of productions lend themselves more openly to the potential of programmatic buying - like music videos.  But even those are so fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants oh-my-god-it's-crazy, that a simple click of a button of 'purchase this slot' won't make a deal happen.  

7. So Many Things To Keep In Mind

There is so much to consider!  For example, your brand is a watch. This film looks perfect.  It IS perfect. But wait - the lead cast member has an endorsement deal with another watch brand.  Deal done.  And it applies to literally every category out there.  

Many of the current databases we see have 'open categories' listed - and pretty much EVERY category is clicked as a 'potential' opportunity.  But in truth they are not.  Once you dig in to the content, the producer, the cast, the whatever it might be, there are often conflicts or some reason that the script just isn't that great a fit.

8.  A Person To Input It All & Fact Gather

Major studios have what they call Production Resources who work on films to bring in brand partners.  But they don't break down the script and make it available for all to see every single brand scripted opportunity.  Some agencies do this for their brands - and some even for their databases they are selling to brands to work directly from.  But the vast majority of content that is out there just doesn't have the manpower attached to do this.

It takes A LOT of time to break down a script.  And actually requires an eagle-eyed script reviewer to do the job.  Not everyone can do it well.  

9.  It Takes Polish

With the glut of content that is out there, we know that the information isn't possible to be updated in any database to the degree that a 3rd party brand manager would be able to look at the opportunity and truly understand it.  It takes a really seasoned experience veteran of the industry to be able to look at a content opportunity and really envision the potential power it has.  And a computer just can't provide that.

Make Product Placement Work For Your Brand

The reality is, productions just have not set themselves up to be commercialized content makers.  So turnkey is not a word applicable to the practice of product placement.  It's a creative process - and not an easy one always.  There are no boxes to check to say I want this, and this and this.  Instead it's a discussion, and one that is really in the hands of the creator - not the brand.

Have you ever wondered how a comprehensive product placement program works?  Or do you want to know how to create a promotional partnership strategy with a movie partner?  This video will answer all of your questions as it shows the steps and processes taken by Hollywood Branded that lead to your brand increasing both consumer engagement and sales!

How Product Placement Works Video