Product Placement Case Study – Secrets To Securing Trade Out Opportunities In Hollywood


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A B2B and B2C Case Study

Establishing your brand in Hollywood means developing your brand relationships in order to get the mega results you often see on screen for some brands.  And there is a secret - much of that exposure comes at a very affordable price.

But there are some insider secrets that you need to know to make that happen.

In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares insider secrets to successful product placement and case study on how brands can secure product placement trade out opportunities in Hollywood.

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A Little History

Our agency, Hollywood Branded, spent over 9 years building opportunities for BlackBerry phones to be featured with characters and scenarios on screen that matched similar types of demographics that their executive marketing team wanted to replicated in real life.  Traditionally those were business users, but over the years our show targets, just like the brand’s marketing targets, moved over in to the general consumer realm.  And then back over to the business and enterprise side.  Our team was super successful – securing literally billions of impressions over the years.  Yep, BILLIONS!

BlackBerry has a very long and strong relationship with Hollywood. Washington politicians  - think Kevin Spacey on House of Cards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep or Kerry Washington in Scandal, Military or FBI storylines with Matt Damon in Bourne Legacy, Claire Danes in Homeland or Zero Dark Thirty), Medical or Forensics with shows like Bones, The Following, Grey’s Anatomy or Hannibal), Military (Zero Dark Thirty), Legal scripts with Tyler Perry in Gone Girl or Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge, Journalists – literally everyone on Newsroom had a BlackBerry, Businessmen like Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother, or Rob Lowe on Parks & Rec, Writers, Sports and Talent Agents with Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curb, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Jeremy Piven in Entourage… are of these are home run examples of business based storylines that aligned with real-life usage of the BlackBerry brand. 

And most impressively, not once was a single dollar spent on any of those product placements we secured.  Yep we said it.  All of those billions of impressions did not have a single dollar paid to a production company.

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A Look Behind The Scenes Of How It Works

So let’s look at the reasons we made BlackBerry’s partnership with Hollywood so successful.  And at such a low cost…  We're  often asked why do product placement trade out relationships get such phenomenal results on screen?   

Simple.  Product placement works through relationships. 

At our agency, we always strive to be a pleasure to work with, as our business is nothing if not a relationship business on steroids.  In Hollywood it really IS about who you know, or what doors you can get opened because you know who is behind them.  It’s about where you can connect the dots to make things happen.  And have the insight and insider knowledge to know what opportunities exist.  The bottom line is that it does matter who likes working with you, and who knows you will deliver against all odds for whatever they need. Typically at the last minute.

Our founder has been in this business now for over twenty years.  And our agency has a long history of an excellent reputation for integrity and follow through.  We also have strong established relationships with prop masters (the people who decide what gets placed for an actor to touch), set decorators (the individuals who ‘dress’ the set, including the brands and signage that you’ll see), producers (who oversee the overall production deals and weigh in if there is a fee offer or larger trade out opportunities or promotion partnership), directors (who craft what actually happens on screen) and more… writers, transportation department heads, wardrobe stylists and – the list goes on and on.

Relationships Make It Happen

With these established relationships, we have become a go-to immediate source to come to, as our agency is able to assist the productions on so many different levels.  And because we have a number of different types of brands we work with, productions want to work with us to get their most bang for their buck of time spent sending us their scripts and chatting about the storylines and characters – versus just reaching out individually to one brand here and then another brand over there.  We save them a tremendous amount of time.

So About That... Time

An active product placement program saves the production time – they don’t have to hunt down an interested brand and explain what product placement is.  Brands who do product placement on a weekly basis know and ‘get it’.  We mean they truly get it, because it’s not so easy to understand that someone is going to take your brand and put it in a scene that you have no control over. It saves the production money from purchasing items, and it saves them from having do legal clearance paperwork to get the item legally allowed to be used on screen.

Another Thing... Solving A Need

Product placement works when your brand can help a production and solve a need.

With BlackBerry, we made it easy for productions who had a need to solve – which was in this case, the need for mobile phones on set. Sometimes on screen, and sometimes also for cast and crew.  And possibly in extremely high quantity.  So we managed a large inventory of product, that could be placed on one set, returned and re-inventoried, and then delivered right out again to another.  And depending on usage, we provided mobile service or SIM cards with data plans that allowed the device to be fully functional.

Helping Characters Be Who They Are

Product placement works when a brand makes sense for characters.

Both Apple’s iPhone (who has an in-house division to oversee Hollywood relationships) and BlackBerry have worked for years in Hollywood, providing prop masters with much needed devices for on screen usage, and for both companies, to tremendous success. 

For brands that don’t have a unique voice to clearly and naturally help identify a character, and are more so generalist brands, it can be a little daunting getting directors to view your product as something naturally identifying with a specific character type.  Although the inverse is also true – and the landscape incredibly large for generalist brands who can relate to a wide consumer demographic there are just that many more opportunities possible.

BlackBerry was unique in many ways, and the brand itself helped establish the business persona of a character on screen.  When you think of BlackBerry, you think efficient and business driven.  When you think iPhone, you think creative and consumer driven. And in some cases, you may have seen a character that hand each device in their hands. 

Lack Of Inventory Is The Kiss Of Death

Product placement works when you make product available easily to productions.

Many brands neglect to dedicate the large amount of product needed for a successful product placement program.   Inventory costs are real.  But the products purchased are also able to be utilized and spread across numerous shows.  If a production loses the product, they can be billed.  And when the product ages out, just like BlackBerry mobile phones often did, they could be repurposed for period specific content.

Other competitive mobile devices to Apple and BlackBerry have not had the same in-depth coverage of Hollywood as these two brands, for a number of reasons, and definitely due to not making inventory more available.  

Which leaves those brands the only option to purchase time on screen, paying for integration with ad dollars.  Which in the long run is a much greater expense than inventory ever would be and a problem when the content partner like HBO or Netflix doesn’t allow fee based integration or ad buys.

When They Say They Need It Fast - It Means Yesterday

Product placement works when you can respond to a production need in an instant.

How fast you can move, 7 days a week and even into the night matters.  As an agency we move at lighting speed – a script can be changed in an instant with a new scene written, and a new set built, all within a day.  And in the case of BlackBerry, our team delivered – literally driving to sets for drop offs or shipping phones overnight at the last minute. And signed clearance agreements and dealt with the legal jargon that would allow the brand to be on screen – and seen in a positive manner. 

And It Worked

For all these reasons, and so many more, BlackBerry’s product placement program worked. Extremely well.

Look, we know product placement works for brands. It differentiates from competition, it provides both conscious and subconscious brand awareness, and it can ultimately drive sales. We cannot even count the number of times someone has told our agency they bought their BlackBerry because their favorite character used it.   BlackBerry is one of the brands our team is most proud of – as we truly created a massive powerhouse of a marketing beast in Hollywood.  Anytime a BlackBerry has been seen in the last decade has been due to our agency.  And the brand has been everywhere. 

And BlackBerry was able to take that on-screen exposure and bring it into the world of social media with fan interaction which we discuss in this blog here as well as through their own social platforms which we share in this blog here.

But BlackBerry is not a one hit wonder.  It’s not unique in this space.  We’ve seen this same result for dozens and dozens of brands.  Not only do our clients report success, but we’ve run very in depth surveys with brands, agencies (of all types) and consumers to hear their positive feedback as well.

Ready to Start Making Hollywood Happen For Your Brand?

If you are interested in learning more about how Product Placement programs best work – stop by or click the image below to download our Product Placement 101 e-book which will provide a really good guide for you to start along your journey to conquering Hollywood. 

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide