Product Placement in Movies

By: Mike Da Silva, MDSA

Product Placement. A brand’s hidden marketing tool.

For generations, moviegoers have had emotional associations with movies and movie stars.  They’ve imagined themselves driving the new concept Aston Martin, evading villains in James Bond’s next movie, to drive one of the exotic cars in any Fast & Furious movie, to have Anne Hathaway’s job in “The Devil Wears Prada” and have ready access to all those designer clothes. Or to just visit locations of their favourite movies.

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Product Placement is the commercial inclusion of a brand in a movie, TV Show, music video, online games, and books.

Well-planned promotions directed to a brand owner’s customers, leveraging a placement opportunity with implied movie star association, can certainly increase brand awareness and sales demand which can last globally for years and years, and for a very economic cost per 1,000 people reached (CPM).

A perfect example of brand awareness and sales demand is in Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T’.

After the M&M brand declined, even though the brand was scripted, Elliot coaxed E.T up the stairs of his home to hide in his room, with Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces. Hershey spent their own funds on a consumer and trade promotion and just two weeks after the ‘E.T’ release, sales of the peanut butter pieces had risen by 67%.

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Types of Product Placement.

There are several forms of placement:

Type A: Where a cast member holds the product or mentions it as part of their dialogue.  An excellent example was the Z3 BMW which our JV Partner placed in the James Bond’s ‘GoldenEye’, the first of 3 movies which involved the car brand. The Z3 hadn’t been launched in the US and had such an impact in the movie, BMW sold 25,000 vehicles when the Z3 was launched a year later.

Type B: Where the product is in the foreground in a scene but is not mentioned. Examples are grocery products on a breakfast table or in a Supermarket.

Type C: Where the product is in the background of a scene.  Examples are bottles on a shelf in a bar in a pub, aircraft tails at an airport and outdoor advertising. (taxi backs, bus sides, railway stations, bus shelters & outdoor billboards).

Brands involved in B & C placements still have strong value, in that brand owners can develop their own leveraging promotions directed to their own customers.

Branded movies: This is a placement where the brand can become the focal point of the movie, creating a unique long standing ownership. Examples are ‘Battleship’ (based on the board game), ‘The Founder’ (McDonald’s), ‘Jobs’ (Apple), ‘Social network’ (Facebook), and the hugely successful Lego Movies. Current movies are the award-winning “Queens Gambit” which singlehandedly re-ignited the game of chess. Some branding extended to a hotel which carried the chess dream imagery on some room ceilings. Finally, there’s the upcoming Ridley Scott biopic “House of Gucci” starring Lady Gaga.

Digital Placements: There is one other form of placement, which we developed for our Woolmark Client in the Kirsten Dunst/Simon Pegg/Megan Fox Movie, ‘How to lose friends & Alienate People’, for a fee. The placement was the Woolmark logo on an outdoor billboard, paint-boxed in at post-production, featuring an animated Megan Fox blowing Simon a kiss. The Hollywood Reporter told us it was the at that time the first commercial placement, with an Invitation to present the campaign to Directors at a Hong Kong Film Awards, that year.

This digital process can allow packaging like cans (beer or soft drink) and boxes (cereal) to be stripped in at post-production, brand by brand and country by country, where the movie is distributed. To leverage this placement, local promotions could be developed in partnership with local brand owners and their Agencies. The result: additional revenue streams for Production Companies and unique support for Distributors and Sales Agents in their local Exhibitor/Streaming Platform negotiations.

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3. The role of Product Placement in Movies.

(i)  To generate incremental revenue.

Product placement is much more developed in the USA, with their much larger budgets, better known movie stars and of course huge audiences. Regarding placement costs, we were once involved in a US movie with a very strong fashion theme. A fashion client of ours was very keen but the US$600,000 fee was far too high for our budget. In the end there were dozens of other brands who paid similar fees.

In Australia, the reality TV Industry pretty well controls the movie placement sector. The reasons are quite clear:

  • Not many local movies last long enough at the box office for a placed brand to have any lasting impact on movie goers, or for leveraging promotions to be executed in the field. It’s like a F1 car crashing early in a race, eliminating the value of brands visible on the car, for the duration of the telecast to spectators and viewers.
  • Reality TV Shows have guaranteed placements and bundled-in media scheduling for a season of episodes. Many Shows repeat each year, gaining large loyal audiences.

(ii)  To ease production budgets.

Brand owners do lend their products to productions for no cost, which can be a huge saving on promotion budgets. Cars, home furniture and computers (on set and for the Production Company) are good examples.

(iii)  Leveraged Promotions.

There’s another concept for involving brands in local movies which opens a huge promotion opportunity for the Production Company, which we’ve developed using our extensive Client & Partner network.

We would offer the brand placement for no cost, offering all the benefits of association with the movie and the stars. In return for this no-cost placement, brand owners would agree to run promotions (ideally multi-layered), with their own marketing budgets, addressing their own marketing objectives, featuring the placed brand.

This way the Production Company is able to offer the Distributor highly valuable promotion activity, involving trailer views with target audiences and data capture (for ongoing direct promotion, upon release).

Mike Da Silva is CEO of MDSA Marketing Communications, a Promotion Marketing Agency of 37 years, specialising in movie marketing: (Product placement & Promotion leveraging) MDSA was the Promoter of the Qantas Movie Club every month, for 9.5 years. Mike had a JV with Norm Marshall, the largest independent placement Agency in LA for 10 years, providing leveraging opportunities in the US and recently launched Alliance with a branded group in the UK, working with Streaming sites in Asia to release UK movies & TV Programmes.  He’s also the Executive Producer of upcoming films: ‘Signs of Love’ – a romantic comedy and Producer of: ‘SpecOps’ – an Action/Spy Thriller.

Kylie Green, from The Lime Agency & Mike Da Silva from MDSA have worked together and collaborated over the past 25 years.  If you are interested in securing your product placement for your brand in movies please book a discovery call with Kylie today via our booking system on the Contact Us page.