Coronavirus TV Viewing Impact Shows The Power Of Product Placement For Brands


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Content Partnerships Abound - And Rebound

When I launched Hollywood Branded 13 years ago, within the first quarter we were faced with a massive challenge: no productions shooting content.  All thanks to the Writers Guild of America strike where TV and film just stopped - overnight.  And it lasted for 4 very long agonizing months. Fully staffed and not wanting to admit defeat as a new business (or layoff my new team) I kept us moving - having conversations about our clients within the industry, doing research to determine the best upcoming partnerships when the strike was over, and cementing deals that would move forward as soon as productions were back. And developing new revenue streams.

Not a great way to launch your agency, but we weathered the storm. Now again, the coronavirus COVID-19 has not only caused businesses to temporarily shut down or have their teams work remotely, it has also halted production shoots from occurring around the globe. Hundreds of productions have stopped shooting. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel - TV and film content will be back with a vengeance, offering brands the ability to become embedded in their content. That very content that has become favored by countless millions as they passed time watching their TVs for weeks on end.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses the newfound marketing opportunity and strength of product placement partnerships this year to new very tuned-in and engaged audiences due to global quarantines.

The Coronavirus Impact Shows The Power Of Product Placement Brand Opportunities Hollywood Branded

A Time To Get Everything Ready And In Order

In the case of COVID-19, the show must NOT go on for the health safety of the production crews and actors. This has led to hundreds of films, TV shows and streaming platform series to come to a grinding halt.  Productions that were shooting, have stopped, as have productions that were getting ready to shoot in the weeks ahead.

Instead of looking at this with that half glass empty, our agency is instead taking a moment to breath, step back and strategize on upcoming partnerships for our clients.  

Because this is an actual opportunity.  An opportunity to get ahead of the game for once.  

Glass half full Hollywood Branded

We live in a world where productions are funded and greenlit to shoot, go into pre-production and in a matter of weeks start shooting.  It provides a very limited time to have detailed conversations with overly-burdened production teams who are on a race to create a fictional world that mimics that of real life.  And that shoot typically only lasts a few months for a film, and a handful of months for a series, with episodes shooting each week.

With product placement partnerships, many conversations can't even begin until there is a production team on board - a director who is envisioning the look and feel of the content.  A prop master, a set decorator, a transportation captain or a wardrobe stylist who is bringing that vision to life. And quite frankly, what brands might be used within the content isn't the number one thing on anyone's minds.  Until we help make them to be.

Massive Amounts Of Brandable Content

We have a tremendous amount of content consumed on a daily basis in the United States.  And much of that lives beyond our boarders.  Beyond the over 400 traditional broadcast and cable network series produced yearly. Beyond the dozens of series created by premium subscription services like Showtime, HBO and Starz. Beyond the 786 feature films released nationally in 2019.  We have the burgeoning world of streaming video content on demand that is unleashing content and viewing habits like binge viewing, and bringing potentially more than twice the amount of content already available to every home.

Image result for apple TV+ Disney+ Hulu Amazon Netflix

Quibi announced that they are producing 175 shows - with 8,500 episodes in its first year.  Netflix released 371 new TV series and movies just in the U.S. in 2019, according to Variety Insight - an increase of 54.6% from 2018.  And those numbers are only continuing to grow.  Apple TV+ only runs original programming, and is spending several BILLION dollars a year on original content.

Plus Hulu. Amazon Prime. Crackle.  And the list goes on.

And that content is a gold mine for brands who are savvy and want to take advantage of the fact that those fictional real-worlds on screen need to look real.  Which means they need brands to help tell their story.

product placement guide

Productions Need Brands In Order To Tell A Better Story

Close your eyes.  Think of your favorite TV series.  Unless it is set in a fantasy world or the future, it is going to have elements that mirror today's world.  And that means the production is going to have to go out and purchase or secure every single solitary thing seen in a scene.  From the drapes to the wardrobe, the furniture to the electronics.  The watches to the cars.  That bathroom cabinet.  The refrigerator.  The mechanic shop.  The grocery store.  Each scene you see is filled with brand opportunities, and each item you see on screen is someone's product.  The question is - is it your brand, and is it identifiable.

Think about this:

  • Unless you are proactively sourcing and securing product placement opportunities, if your brand IS chosen, it likely is not going to have the logo included.  Why should it be if production had to purchase it? 
  • And you certainly aren't going to be given any additional behind the scenes content to re-purpose.  Why would the production give you anything if you didn't save them money?
  • Or have the foresight to know that you can run a marketing campaign around that appearance. Because who actually is going to think to contact you to have that discussion?

Opportunities for brands to partner with content vary based on type of property, storyline, distributor or network, cast, specific opportunity, competitive brand interest, and the cast.  For content partnerships, types of exposure may include verbal mentions, location shoots, storyline, prop, focal insert, set dressing, foreground, wardrobe or signage.

The 4 Options Of Product Placement

It is not a cheap affair to produce a TV series or a feature film.  And productions have set budgets in order to bring their vision to life.  That's where brands can come in and help out.  And it often doesn't cost a dime.

Partnership options may include:

  • Loan-of-product or signage, with no fee paid to production.  
  • Large trade of product (relevancy to be determined by your brand category) to offset production costs.
  • Payment to production to guarantee insert logo shots and/or storyline messaging.
  • Strategic co-promotion partnerships tied to the release of the property, leveraging planned media.

Does your brand fit in there?  I've yet to meet even a niche company that doesn't have some sort of opportunity to capitalize on product placement in one of those four ways listed above.  There is a storyline for every type of brand imaginable.

The Impact Of The Coronavirus For Years To Come

We are absolutely in a rough economic time in the years ahead.

Distributors and producers who shut down production have lost tremendous amounts of capital. The productions that were shooting will have to be brought back into production, at high costs.  Plus all that delayed production squeezed into tight filming windows because the cast and executive production team members are slated to be on other productions later in the year.  This is likely to make productions more eager to find brand partnerships to save dollars, bring in new revenue, and help them market their projects to that the box office return is even greater.

But entertainment isn't going anywhere. It is where we turn to in the times of anxiety or loneliness.  And even in a time of a war - on a virus.

In fact, Nielsen released a statement that TV viewing has the potential to increase by 60% during this crisis.

"Consumers who stay indoors during major crises gravitate toward watching feature films, news and general format programming, per the research firm. Nielsen also found an average 61% increase in streaming video via the TV." - Nielsen

What streaming video on demand platforms are actually proving is that a glut of content is welcomed by viewers.  We haven't reached the maximum amount yet.  And those viewers who previously just had a handful of favorite shows will have just expanded their viewing habits after being isolated at home for weeks, exposing themselves to a more varied menu of content to break through times of boredom and alleviate fear and stress by immersing themselves in the world of make-believe.

Those upcoming new seasons of series will have a new built in audience, just waiting to see your brand.  Now is the time to start planning how your brand can become part of that storyline.  And become proactive in your product placement planning.  Just like our agency is taking advantage of the downtime now where we can actually see the trees in the forest, and more easily plan and strategize on those large scale partnerships.

And if you really want to run versus walk - there MAY still be opportunities to get your brand in before the productions gear up again.

Movies on pause - and this is just the tip of the iceberg include:

  • Tom Cruise's franchise hit movie Mission: Impossible 7.
  • Netflix's blockbuster sized budget movie “Red Notice" starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds.
  • Amazon's Birds of Paradise.
  • Disney's live-action Little Mermaid.
  • The Disney musical starring Camila Cabella.
  • Even Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley film starring Tom Hank's has been sidelined due to the actor himself coming down with the virus.
  • As well as The Harder They Fall, the all-black Western starring Idris Elba (who has the virus) and Jonathan Majors.
  • Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara halted production in Toronto.
  • Shrunk, the reboot of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids starring Josh Gad and Rick Moranis.
  • The live-action Peter Pan & Wendy.
  • The Matrix 4 starring Keanu Reeves.
  • The Batman starring Robert Pattinson.
  • Fantastic Beasts 3 which will delay production start.
  • King Richard, the Richard Williams tennis drama starring Will Smith.
  • The Kevin Hart-Woody Harrelson comedy The Man From Toronto.
  • Shrine, the horror movie starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Cary Elwes.
  • Disney+’s Home Alone starring Ellie Kemper, Jojo Rabbit‘s Archie Yates and Rob Delaney. Yes. They are rebooting it.  Why? Because seemingly reboots do well and McCaulay Culkin wasn't enough.
  • Sylvester Stallone's film Samaritan.
  • Jurassic World: Dominion with Chris Pratt.
  • The Card Counter starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe.
  • Official Competition starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. 
  • Rachel Morrison’s period based teen sports drama Flint Strong, the story of Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields.

Thank you Deadline for pulling together part of that comprehensive list,

Oh - and EVERY SINGLE broadcast and cable network series currently in production across dozens and dozens of networks.  It's a lot of content.

how your product placement program works

Interested in Learning More?  

Check out these blogs about why brands should explore venturing into product placement:

Check out this Product Placement 101 guide we wrote to help provide even more insights on this trending marketing practice.

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide