Tips To Product Placement & Partnerships in TV with Susan Weber Gatto


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Things To Note About The Entertainment Marketing Industry

Everybody wants to be a part of the entertainment industry - even marketers! Realistically, there is a lot of work that goes into product placement than one would think, and so much can go wrong!

Recently, our CEO sat down with Suzan, and discussed some of these topics! In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns tips to product placement and partnerships in TV with Suzan Weber Gatto, president of SWG Consulting.

Tips And Tricks To Product Placement Partnerships In TV and Streaming Series with Susan

A Little More About Guest

Suzan started her career in print working for Conde Nast in ad sales. After a while she got a job at Lifetime at A&E Networks where her job was to evangelize content, to call on brand managers and find alternate revenue streams for the content. This lead her into the branded content integration space where she worked on Project Runway and on the launch programming for FYI, on History, on A&E Proper, and also on Lifetime. For the past four years, she has been freelancing, and representing networks and production companies and other platforms for brand sponsorship and product placement.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: With working with production companies, are you always looking for dollars? Is that under your view? There're so many different things, with our clients, with product placement, we will look for opportunities where our clients can have no fee opportunities or we'll look for heightened opportunities where there are fee opportunities. Some of this is where there's a large trade out opportunities, which save the production a lot of dollars so that they don't have to go and rent or buy or purchase or shoot at a location. What typically are you looking for?

Answer: It sort of depends on what stage in the production process of project comes to me. A lot of the stuff that I get often is what's called client supplied, meaning that the production company wants to own their own IP. And they're planning on purchasing the time from the network or whatever the delivery mechanism is. A lot of times they have this idea in their mind that they can find brands to fully sponsor the content, but they won't have to take any money out of their pocket. And they'll be able to get the million, $2 million, $3 million budget that they need in order to make it, which is, I would say exceptionally rare. In those cases, I'm looking for money and they don't want to see production offset because they really need the cash to make the show. 

You're going to have your own money, resources already available to produce. Then, often I can find you incremental money that will go towards the profit or towards the bottom line or towards making the show better because you have more money to spend against production. When a production is either green-lit by a network or in a different stage and process, then production offset can make a big difference, for example, in a travel show. If you have to travel to South Korea or Africa or somewhere really far away, and we can get the tourism board or the country to front the money to fly eight, 20 people there, to house them and feed them. That is a significant number that was in the production budget that can then come out because we got the cash for it, but there's still going to be cash that's involved.

Question: How can you make the producer super happy that they're getting these dollars or they're getting these large trades so that it works for them as well? With all of that, there are things that just commonly come up that brands don't understand, and that producers don't understand. Can we dive in there a little bit? Share some of the things that you see on a consistent basis where the interpretation of the end result is not always what each has in mind from the beginning.

Answer: Well, I'm going to say, first of all, that having someone like you or me in the process will make that go a lot better. One of the challenges I see often is by the time I finally get brought in, there's already a lot of debris on the ground. So the producers, the production has already tried really hard to connect with brands. They have had some bad experiences where there was miscommunication and misunderstanding of exactly what the trade off was going to be. My experiences, in most cases, producers are absolutely willing to do almost anything. They understand the quid pro quo that comes with somebody writing them a check, that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and they will have to be accommodating and manage the messaging. A lot of times they don't have total control. One of the challenges that brands have to see is that the circumstances sometimes dictate the situation.

Tips To Product Placement and Partnerships in TV with Suzan Weber Gatto

We'd go out to try to get XYZ scene and the weather changes or something happens, or the talent's allergic, or there's something that happens and we'll do our best. I had a situation once where the talent was not able to pronounce the line that explained what the brand was, their messaging point, her accent was such that it made it basically impossible for them to capture that line and having tried and tried and tried, I get a call, literally, at two in the morning, "We need a different line and we need it now." And so, some of it is being accessible and accommodating and ready at the moment. It's really hard on both brands and productions that the turnaround on these things has to be five seconds. I mean, if you call me up and say, do you have an idea for me on this brand?

I have to have that idea ready for you within 24 hours, or that ship has sailed. I can't come back to you in a week or two or three with, "Oh yeah, I forgot to say, I could also do this." You're onto the next and it's the same way for producers. I think part of what I'm seeing is that everybody needs to take a breath and relax, rely on the experts to some degree and be able to be a little flexible. If we are communicating and we are doing a deal, I can promise you I'll make sure you get what you were looking for to the best of my ability.

Question: Where are some of the things that you've seen brands ask for that are just not reasonable within the world of production, besides that guaranteed timestamp of how many minutes and seconds?

Answer: Well, often they're looking for a talent deal for free, which they can't get. If we have, let's say for argument's sake, Khloe Kardashian in the show, it's her show. She's the talk, she's the host. She's not going to be able to pick up that product, talk about how great it is, and then take it with her when she leaves the set and walks the streets of LA and show it off to her friends and be on Instagram with that product, because that is what we would call a talent deal. While she's on set, in theory, if that was her agreement with the show, then yes, she can talk about the cereal or whatever it is. Once she walks out the door and she's her own person, if you want her to carry your product or eat it or use it or do something, you're going to have to pay her a lot of money.

That is often where I think there's a misunderstanding .

Tips To Product Placement and Partnerships in TV with Suzan Weber Gatto

Question: What else have you seen that has not gone necessarily right always?

Answer: Production's a moving target. With the very best intentions, I come out saying, "This is the production schedule. This is the geography. This is the timing. This is the network. This is the time slot. This is the anticipated rating. This is all of the stuff." Then, the network gets sold, a tsunami hits, something happens, we have to change location. There's a lot of backing up and going left and going right that happens to get us all to that place. The hard part, I think, is on your desk where you have these clients who have very heavy expectations of you, and you're expecting me to answer every one of those questions and I want to deliver those answers to you. I'm answering them for you, but sometimes, I'm not sure.

I will always tell you when I'm not sure or where I'm not sure because I don't like there to be that unknown, but that's the nature of the beast. It is going to be a project to get us to that end. And hopefully along the way, we'll make friends and we'll come out the other side. However it comes out, you're going to still be content, but I would say, nothing goes according to plan, nothing happens the way it stated. The contract is just there to protect us from the worst case scenario. It's really not how it's going to lay out.

Question: Any last advice to our audience about things they should know, about working with productions, if they are a brand or things that producers should know.

Answer: I'm going to say this, which is the very last area that producers go to, even though they consider it a crucially important piece. By the time you get to it, you're a little jaded and start to think to yourselves, "I guess I don't really need to pay anybody to do this for me." I'm going to tell you that's just not true that you do get what you pay for, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you are looking to get $100,000, $500,000, $1 million to your bottom line, you need somebody who knows what they're doing, and you really do need to hire an expert and pay them the same way you would pay everybody else that's on your payroll and treat them the same way that you treat everyone else that's on your payroll. This isn't the dirty money, this is frankly good money. This is good brands and good productions who belong together. That's my last word of advice. You get what you paid for hiring an expert.


Check Out The Podcast!

Suzan has SO MUCH great information from his experience in product placement and partnerships in TV and streaming series, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business from his advice and expertise!

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