Brand Relationships With Hollywood
There are a few dozen brands who have figured out how to truly leverage Hollywood. Why not more? Quite frankly - it's perplexing. Because the opportunity is absolutely there, waiting to be seized by brand managers. Yet many brands, across really key categories, have either not tried product placement, or not done so effectively.
There are certain categories where success is really a no brainer. These include beverages (both alcohol and non-alcoholic), automotive brands, electronics (my oh my the opportunities), apparel, jewelry and watches and countless others. And some brands reign king across those categories, while others rarely if ever make even a walk on background role on screen. But the potential is there for every brand -- if you just let Hollywood know you are ready to play in the game. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how brands can successfully leverage product placement trade out opportunities in Hollywood TV and film.
Our Agency's Experience In Finding Success For Brands Case Study In Action
Hollywood Branded worked for over 8 years to associate BlackBerry with characters and scenarios on screen that match those who use it in real life. 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 (Matt Damon in Bourne Legacy, Claire Danes in Homeland or Zero Dark Thirty), Medical or Forensics (Bones, The Following, Grey’s Anatomy or Hannibal), Military (Zero Dark Thirty), Legal (Tyler Perry in Gone Girl or Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge), Journalists (everyone on Newsroom), Businessmen (Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother, or Parks & Rec), Sports and Talent Agents (Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curb, or Jeremy Piven in Entourage) are all examples of business based storylines that align with real-life usage of the BlackBerry brand.
Hollywood Branded has not negotiated to pay for this exposure in the TV series, as BlackBerry did not pay for placement exposure in content. Hollywood Branded did, however, provide mobile devices, and in some instances, SIM cards with data plans that allow the device to be fully functional. So why does this product placement trade out relationship get a final result on screen?
Product Placement Works Through Relationships
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. Other competitive mobile devices have not had the same in-depth coverage of Hollywood as these two brands, and have tended to purchase their time on screen, paying for integration, as their devices don’t clearly and naturally identify with a character, nor have they dedicated the amount of product needed for a successful program. And that really is key. Making inventory available and at the ready. And then of course having the relationships to get it into the hands of decision makers.
BlackBerry helped establish the 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 see a character that has both devices. But do you really think Samsung Android or OPPO or LG or Huawei? Nope. But if positioned correctly, prop masters and directors would.
Who You Know Means Success
In Hollywood it is true. It IS who you know. As the founder of Hollywood Branded, I've worked in entertainment marketing for over twenty one years, and our agency has a long history of an excellent reputation for integrity and follow through. I expect it from our team members, and they in turn provide it readily to our Hollywood relationships. We've built up that reputation as an agency who will go above and beyond to help a production, and that is truly key.
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 with brands and signage), 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.
With these relationships, we are a go-to immediate source to come to, as we are able to assist the productions on four levels.
1.) Loan of goods plus clearance rights to use products on screen, which saves the production money for purchasing product and time as they have to have approval of the brand to have anything appear on screen – and we can provide both.
2.) Larger scale trade out, where we may provide a larger quantity of a product to offset the costs of behind the scenes usage – whether that be cost savings of phone rental or water for the production crew to drink, or cars for the actors to drive on screen – or even a plane for a day of filming.
3.) Promotional partnership where the brand’s advertising or retail shelf space/packaging is leveraged to add in a title treatment of the production property along with artwork, as well as a release date. This allows the production to get exposure to more consumers without having to pay for the accompanying media.
4.) Cash fees for integration. For large scale storyline integration where there is messaging, it is likely there are dollars attached.
The assumption that everything seen on screen is paid for is not the case, and really never should be assumed by a viewer if the brand is just in a scene with logo exposure or as part of the storyline where the appearance is extremely natural. The majority of brand exposure in TV and film content is still based in trade and not dollars. Reports in media are highly exaggerated. Large scale exposure with scripted usage or additional media advertising accompanying the exposure on television should be assumed to be part of an integrated media buy. If the camera is lingering a little longer, then likely there is something a little bigger than loan of the product involved – this being a promotional partnership, cash fees, or a media buy.
Who Are The Product Placement Decision Makers?
When a prop master, set decorator, producer or production resources -- be sure to read our blog Top 10 Product Placement Decision Makers For What Brands Appear on Screen -- you'll learn that Production Resources are like Product Placement agencies. These are people who represent the TV show or film, similarly to how a product placement agency represents the brand – each a middle man protecting the best interests of the client) is hired on a project, they reach out to those who they trust in Hollywood.
And our agency is considered one of those trustworthy sources. Hollywood Branded typically receives the script, an invite to read the script, or at the least a synopsis and detail that allows us to fully analyze the opportunity for each brand we work with. This includes our determining the likelihood of distribution, the cast, the storyline and the actual opportunity for brand exposure.
Hollywood Branded then discusses with the production team the brands that would be a fit, and we negotiate how the partnership is going to happen – often and typically by loan of the product, and in some cases by a larger trade out, cash fee or promotional support.
Where Are The Products Kept?
Hollywood Branded houses all (or most!) products on-site, which is another reason productions reach out to the agency. It is turnkey and easy for the agency to get something to the production very quickly – and in Hollywood it is very easy to have a script change that results in a brand opportunity need that is same day. Hollywood Branded inventories everything in a database, and then checks the product out to the production. If the product is of considerable value then the agency will also get an insurance certificate to protect the brand in case it is not returned or is damaged. Once filming is completed, the product is returned to the office, or to the client, to be used again in another film or TV production. The cycle repeats, and the individuals Hollywood Branded work with move on to different productions and the agency will then work with them again in their new role. Read more about 3 reasons why productions like to use product placement.
When the film or television production has aired, we then review the materials for the client’s brand exposure, and provide a detailed summary inclusive of reach, length of time on screen, product usage description and more.
Product Placement Works
We know product placement works. 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 feedback as well. And it’s just one of many entertainment marketing tactics available that are proven to help brands create consumer engagement and drive sales.
Are you interested in integrating product placement into your entertainment marketing mix, but simply don’t know where to start? There is so much more to product placement than you may think, and it is important to be educated about the key tactics to best fit your brand. Download our Product Placement 101 Infographic today to start learning more!