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    Understanding The Intricacies Of Product Placement

    Posted by Heather Armel on October 10, 2019 at 9:00 AM

    Know Your Brand's Portrayal To Improve It

    It's important for brands to be aware of how they are being perceived in media and entertainment. Most brands assume that their perception is exactly what they intend it to be, which is a mistake that's often only caught once it's too late. Attempting to synthesize your brands impressions all in media and entertainment is overwhelming and next to impossible, if you do it alone.

    Recently, our CEO had a conversation with someone who's cracked the code by developing an analytical view of brand portrayal, allowing brands to actively track their perceptions rather than passively hope for the best. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses the intricacies of product placement with Dominic Artzrouni, the founder of Concave Brand Tracking. 


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    A Little More About Dominic

    Dominic founded Concave Brand Tracking back in 2013 by combining his background in business, data analysis, and market research with his passion for entertainment.Concave Brand Tracking is a company that tracks the amount of exposure and impact of a brand from product placement in TV and film content. 

    Over the years, Dominic has worked with many major agencies and brands, including Dell, Anheuser-Busch, and Moët Hennessy. Their annual list for the most visible product placement brands in movies is one of a kind in the industry.

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    Interview Transcript Highlights

    Question: I'm so happy to have you on today. I have been looking forward to our conversation for weeks. What I'd love to do is have you start off and tell all of our listeners a little bit more about yourself, and what got you to be the movie fanatic that you are, that you created a business just to measure product placement.

    Answer: I'd love to. As you said, in my past experiences I actually worked in data analysis and market research, most recently before I started Concave, but I'd always had a passion for movies.

    Going back to by studies, when I was studying marketing, product placement was something that just seemed really interesting to me. I actually initially thought about having a career there, but back then in the UK, product placement was really not a thing. I went down another route but now I've found a way to bring together the experience I've had along the way and this passion of mine.

    The interesting thing is that I was working in market research in fashion. Basically, after a few years of working there and started thinking about what my next steps were going to be, I took what I had learned there and saw how it could apply it to movies, taking the outsider point of view.

    In the fashion industry, we literally had a company that would send people into store and record the prices and ranges in all stores like J. C. Penney, Gap, that sort of thing. Then, we would analyze these huge amounts of data to look at the price comparisons and the product ranges.

    That was the background I came from. With that in mind I said, "Well, there must be something like this in product placement, surely, to find out every single brand in every single movie and comparing it."

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    Very quickly I found out that, I think there were literally just a few big companies that had stuff that hadn't been updated in five or six years when I started looking at those in 2013. I found there wasn't. I ran with the idea. We started with an experimental 110 movies and about at the time we were using music video, about a thousand music videos, to have a proof of concept of what our data could look like.

    It took us for a while, but we knocked on a lot of doors and now it's five, six years later. Here we are, doing what we want to do, working with some of the biggest brands, and recording the brands in pretty much every single major movies, a bunch of TV shows, music videos. What I always wanted was to just bring a whole other level of insight to product placement and I like to believe that that's what we're doing.


    Question: What are some of the trends that you've seen with product placement since you started back in 2013?

    Answer: In 2013, we started looking at the 10 years before that. Product placement has always appeared, brands have always appeared in entertainment, but I feel it's become much more, I'd say polished, would be the word, rather than just brands appearing here or there, having a pizza box stuffed in someone's face in one particular movie. We see brands that have strategies and the brands are appearing much more integrated and consistently but at the same time, they're appearing more visibly.

    One very interesting thing we found in the 10 years that we did, 2003 to 2013, a tiny thing that most people wouldn't think of is the increase in the resolution of movies and TV shows makes a huge difference because even back in 2003, you're looking at low ... Even one level lower resolution, it's a lot harder to recognize a can of Coke than when it's on 4K.

    I think that obviously helped, but in the meantime brands have become more thorough. They're being more careful about what they're doing. Again, product placement people still think of the stereotypical brand in your face. We still see that sometimes especially in movies like Transformers but overall, brands have tried to avoid doing that.

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    Question: When you're looking at the data, and I know that you review the content, and you list every brand that's potentially actually in that content, and then you're ranking how that brand appeared in number of times, can you share a little bit more about what you look at when you're analyzing a film?

    Answer: Absolutely. Again, coming without knowing the industry from an insider point of view, I just thought the beginning, what are the things that are most important. We break our metrics down to exposure, demographics, and context.

    Exposure's obviously the main one that most people are interested. We record what the product is, what the brand is, how long it's on screen, so how many seconds, how visible it is, is it something that's a close up, is it in the background, is it just discreet on the side, is the logo or the name visible. That's our exposure metrics.

    Then, what we've been doing the last few years is we use all of that along with the viewership and advertising costs that come up with the valuation. That, obviously, is the big number that's most interesting. How much something is worth in terms of marketing advertising value.

    Then, the two others that we think is interesting and that's really for the brands that are interested in doing a deep dive on their portrayal is the demographics. Every time a brand is used by someone, we record that, so the actor. Then, we can look at a macro level what the average age, what the gender breakdown or what the ethnicity breakdown of the actors is. That can give some really interesting stats.

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    For example, the fact that probably won't surprise you that majority of brands are used by men but it's actually 70% of brands are associated with men as opposed to women. That's still up for women year on year in 2018.

    Next, in terms of context, we look at where a brand is being shown. Is a car appearing on a race track or is it appearing at a school picking up the kids? What is it being used for? Is a laptop being used by a kid to Skype someone or is it being used by the police to find someone using GPS?

    We've record all of those metrics to then show brands not only how visible they're appearing, but also how they're being shown. That way allows them to see if that's in line with their brand values.


    Question: What are some of the mistakes that you've seen people make besides not actually working in enough films or TV shows?

    Answer: In terms of placements, I would just say it's the going too much in your face. For example, like Beats by Dre and Transformers, it's literally if you put in product placement to Google images, usually what you get is all of the examples of people complaining about it.

    I mean, in a way, if there's no such thing as bad publicity, maybe they would argue that especially a brand like Beats by Dre, which is known for product placement but people do get tired about it because every other article about product placement out there is someone saying, "Fans are tired of this or that." It makes good headlines.

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    In Stranger Things, even though Coca-Cola was the biggest brand and they got really good value, I'm sure they're thrilled with it. There are still a bunch of articles which say, "Is this too much?"

    That would be what are the other mistakes. Again, as you said putting all your eggs in one basket but it's interesting because over the years, we've seen brands, which haven't been doing too well or maybe they have been doing well but just in one movie.

    A good example is AOC they do monitors. They were in The Martian, which was really good and then they sort of off the radar for a couple years but now they've come back in 2018 in full force and they're in eight different movies including really big ones like Venom. They've obviously coming along in terms of their strategy.

    I think in terms of mistakes but also good practices in terms of being realistic about what you expect in terms of the ROI and this is the problem as you've alluded to where people ... They need to basically start with the assumption that they shouldn't be paying for it. Maybe, eventually they do if the right deal comes along would use an agency like yours, build the connection, build the network because the problem is that if you're paying 1 or $200,000 per placement, even if then one of them becomes worth 1 or $2 million, which is amazing, overall you're not necessarily going to be happy because there's this assumption because of many of the factors we talked about earlier if people think that every placement is worth millions.


    Question: Do you see an increase of product placement right now or a decrease of product placement?

    Answer: It fluctuates a lot. I'd say it's about stable. I mean, I gave the example earlier of how using the top 50 movies in 2015, they generated $1.2 billion versus $600 million this year and obviously we dug into that because that's like a huge difference and it's just simply about the movies like in 2015 at the top five movies of the box-office, again, obviously the higher the movie, the higher the value. You have Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Fast and Furious Seven, who are obviously huge movies and full of product placement.

    Then, the next year out of the top five, you had Secret Life of Pets, Jungle Book, and Finding Dory and Star Wars in the top five, which pretty much have virtually no product placement. That's how one from one year to another, you can see a 60% drop. It fluctuates. It's very ... and but I guess, most importantly, it's very hard to predict.

    Sometimes, this is why again, we find our data is important because if ... The entry level for evaluations and the sort of data we do is for someone to just say, "Okay, here's what I'm in. Tell me how much it's worth." That's a great first step. You can understand a lot of the things we've talked about, about some properties are going to be bigger than others, some of you be successful but if that's all you're looking at you can be like, "Well, why did I lose two thirds, one year on another," and you could be like, "Well, just because there weren't that many movies where they needed family vehicles or there weren't that many movies that are taking place in offices or those movies just didn't do well."

    That's where our data we believe is so important because you can really just get this macro picture of what's going on, what are the top brands, what are the top types of products, what are the products that are coming in and out?

    Actually, a big new trend is obviously websites and apps. A few years ago, it was very rare but now you see Google, you see Facebook. Instagram is one of the most mentioned brands in movies in the last couple of years and obviously that's huge because that didn't exist a few years ago.

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    Check Out The Podcast!

    Dominic was an absolute pleasure to have on the show, and the podcast is filled with more great marketing advice. Here's the full episode so you can hear the entire conversation.

    Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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    Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews