How To Secure Product Placement With A Production
Table Of Contents
Making It Happen
Signed Contract Outlining Commitment To Pursue Opportunities
Although one would assume it goes without saying, we’ve learned the hard way NOT to begin the process of looking for product placement opportunities for a brand without a signed contract with our agency in place from the client. It’s all too easy to rush to start this process after a great call with an eager potential client - who seems to be totally on the up and up and committed to moving forward. But things happen, and a client who says they are absolutely ready to commit dollars and energy to a product placement isn't actually ready unless they sign a contract stating they are on board. And it's taken a few burned relationships with productions before we really became strict with this rule.
It hurts our agency’s reputation to research, reach out, and basically facilitate a full deal only to have the client decide at the last minute that they “don’t quite have the budget until next quarter” or “management changed their mind,” or they “didn’t realize it was actually going to cost that,” … you get the idea. For reasons like this, we require a signed contract from the client agreeing to our services before we begin ideating or picking up the phone to have a conversation with a production partner.
There is no guarantee that the perfect opportunity is just around the corner waiting to be found. But that perfect opportunity can be created with a lot of elbow grease on our agency's part.
Client Info: Who They Are And What They Really Truly Want
The next step is to really learn about the client. We set up an initial onboarding call or in-person meeting, if geographically possible, where we ask as many questions as we can think of.
In order to make a campaign as successful as possible, there are a few specific things we really need to lock down:
What kind of services are they asking of us?
As we specialize in both entertainment content marketing and influencer campaigns, we need to know which type of partnership they’re looking for. And they can be combined - having a celebrity or influencer as part of a product placement campaign to bring it off the big(ger) screen and onto other screens, or co-branded media and retail helps build legs to these partnerships.
When does the client need this air, premiere, or run? If a client is open to either a TV or film placement, but they need it air within the next 3-4 months, we already know that TV is our only option as films typically take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years to shoot and premiere. It’s also important for us to know if a brand has a particular season that they need to hit or a season that they need to avoid. This way, we can immediately eliminate productions that won’t fit into the air dates.
Brand Talking Points
What’re the top 3-4 things that the brand wants to get across to viewers? What are their most important messaging points? This helps us further guide what kind of productions would be a fit.
Who is the brand looking to reach? Who’s their target consumer? Is it women 35 – 55? Then a daytime talk show would probably be the best fit. Is it men 18 – 40? Then an action movie might be a cool idea to explore.
The Brand’s KPIs
How are they measuring success? Is the brand an app in which they’ll be measuring success based on the number of downloads? Is it sales? Is it boosted social media followers? How do we all know, at the end of the day, what success actually means?
Realistically how much do they want to spend on a campaign? This is one of the most important, if not the most important, answer we need, as it will determine what level of production and how much exposure the brand can afford to secure.
There’s no magic database that allows you to input the above information, accurately spit out exactly what productions fit, and who to talk to at that production. There are companies who SAY they have this - it's an untruth. There is no published data easily available on what opportunities actually exist for a brand. The best database anyone has that we've ever seen is one that has an overview of the production - name, distributor, synopsis, targeted audience (possibly), shoot date (maybe - so much is up in the air on this), and air date (and often this isn't even confirmed until well after production completes). The database we've built for our team to use has dozens of fields that help us fine-tune the right production - but even then, that information is only obtainable after we have a true conversation with the production company and dive in deep. We keep a pulse on all things going into production and have a great idea of the landscape, but there is always room for more research and digging.
Generating all of this information takes time, research, and relationships. We first start out by using our knowledge of the brand to come up with the best productions. We have to factor in which productions accept fees (as not all do), air dates, viewership of the show, etc. We start by using multiple subscription databases to come up with a list of productions that might be a good fit.
From there, the outreach begins. Having our agency's team being an active player in this industry for over two decades, our agency is lucky to have a lot of contacts in great places. However, because there is just SO much content these days, there are still many productions that we don’t know yet, or we don’t know the right person there yet for this type of deal.
Depending on what the brand is looking for in a production, we may need to talk with the prop master, the set decorator, the line producer, the director, the director of photography, the clearance coordinator, the costume designer, and the list goes on. So, if we’ve come up with a list of about twenty different potential productions, it could take anywhere from hours to weeks in order to connect with the right decision-maker.
I like to say that tracking down the right people is a gift. Here at HB, I’m known as the resident stalker. If we need someone on a production found, I will find them. We use numerous resources to get to these people – LinkedIn, IMDBPro, social media. However, no tool is more useful than our relationships. This industry is very tight-knit so when poking around, people are usually willing to go out on a limb and connect you to a mutual friend of theirs who might be able to help.
Educating Hollywood on Your Brand
All during this reach-out stage, we’re coming into contact with hundreds of production members and educating each one of them on the brand.
Even though about 75% of the conversations don’t lead to something right then, that person will forever know your brand, so when they hop on to their next film or TV show and read a perfect scene for the brand, they already have you top of mind. And in fact, this education is one of the most important pieces to your future in Hollywood. How successfully you are introduced and welcomed by the Hollywood community defines the actual opportunities your brand will be considered for in the years to come.
Our opening doors and selling in your brand to these important decision-makers has the power to bring massive exposure opportunities to your door as people begin to think of your brand as top of mind instead of your competition. Many an unbelievable product placement has been secured because the key decision makers are on a later project and happen to remember a conversation with our team about a company and reach out with the perfect last-minute fit - for something that never would have happened otherwise if they didn't know about the company.
Negotiation With Production
Once those stars align and we’ve found the right production and the right point of contact, the negotiation begins. We have to know our budget range in order to start building the idea. Knowing the space well, we’re familiar with what shows or films should charge based on their network/distribution and viewership, so usually, this part doesn’t take long.
Once we confirm the price with the brand, we work with the production team to determine timing that aligns both with the show and the client.
- With a film, we typically have a 3-month time frame when it will be shot.
- With a cable TV show or streaming SVOD on Netflix or Amazon with 10 or 13 episodes, just under 6 months from when filming began. And a possible 3 to 6-month wait for release of the property.
- With a scripted primetime network TV show, about 8 months, usually in late summer to April.
- For a talk show, from next week to 9 months.
And taking a look at talk shows, between production schedules and other branded segments booked, landing a good date for a talk show can be difficult. Once a date is locked in, we work with the producers to lay out the segment:
- How will it read?
- Given their talking points, how can we deliver them in a way that’s informative but still entertaining?
- Knowing their KPIs, what can the show do to help make this a success? Is it mentioning a coupon code on air? Is it posting the segment on their YouTube channel and linking to the brand’s buying page?
This is where having an agency represent you is incredibly helpful because we’ve truly done it all. We know what extra’s a talk show has to offer.
If it’s a scripted placement we’re looking at, it’s a similar process, but of course, with some tweaks. If it’s a film, we read the script.
Of course, in a dream world, the perfect film has the perfect scene written where it mentions the brand and organically walks the viewer through the brand’s talking points. We can confidently say that will NEVER be the case. Sure, once in a while, a brand can get lucky with a mention, but without working one on one with the writers, a brand isn’t going to get everything they want out of it.
That’s where we come in. Working with the writers and producers, we figure out the best scene(s) to feature the brand and its messaging. 99.9% of the time, this requires a minor script re-write which the brand gets to see for final approval. The fee for such placements will always depend on the film (the cast, distribution plans, budget), the amount of exposure the brand is looking for, and how much the film has to tweak in order to make room for the brand. In addition to that custom on-screen placement, we work with the film’s distribution studio to outline takeaways the brand can repurpose to give this placement legs. Maybe this is behind-the-scenes content they can repurpose on their social media or promotional photos the brand can post to help boost awareness of the placement. Again, this is where it's helpful to have an agency because we know what to ask for and who to ask.
If it’s a TV property, it works much the same as a film. We work with the producers and writers to figure out how to organically weave in the brand, sometimes across multiple episodes, so that the viewers leave not only having a full understanding of what the brand is but that they’re also influenced to download, buy, follow, etc. We again work with the TV program to secure additional assets outside of the placement to really help enhance the exposure for the brand.
Timing To See Your Brand On Screen
Unless we’re really short for time given a tight turnaround in production schedule, this outreach and subsequent back and forth can take months before the brand is even seen on a production set. Add on another couple of months or up to a year before the release of the episode/film, and you’re typically looking at a minimum 6-month-long process.
It’s certainly something that requires some patience, but the payoff is usually pretty darn worth it! And if you are looking for something faster? Well then, that's where influencer content marketing comes in as an alternative. To learn more about influencer marketing, check out these five blogs we've written that dive more deeply into how you can successfully create an influencer marketing campaign:
- 3 Insights To Create Affordable Influencer Marketing Campaigns
- 3 Things Brands Need To Understand About FTC Guidelines On Influencers
- 3 Tips To Make Your Brand Appealing To Top Social Media Influencers
- 8-Step Guide On How Much To Spend On Social Influencer Marketing
- Why An Influencer Isn't Responding To Your Inquiries
Product placement is an excellent way to grab consumers' attention on an engaged platform, which we discuss in our blog Easy Affordable Consumer Engagement Tactics as well as in our team's blog 5 Ways Brand Marketers Secure Product Placement To Increase Sales.
And check out these blogs on product placement as well:
- 4 Common Myths About Product Placement Debunked
- 10 Surprising Reasons Why Brands Do Product Placement
- 8 Ways To Use Product Placement Assets To Amplify Your Brand Into Sales
- 3 Important Steps In Planning Product Placement Strategy
- Thinking Product Placement Cost Is High (It Isn't!)
Want to get more details on 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!