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Putting a Price on Product Placement
By: James Brandt
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In an earlier post, I talked about the value of sponsorships. I think it is one of the most effective marketing tools for using radio and television. Another tool that has proven effective is product placement.

I have been aware of product placement in films and television for years. When I was a SAG talent agent in the early '80s, one of my clients was the Seagram’s brand Myer’s Rum. My contact was excited about a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" scene where Jones manages to snag a kiss in a suggested James Bond-like moment.

The scene also features a Myer’s Rum bottle prominently displayed on the table, and it only cost $50,000. However, I have seen Myer’s Rum mentioned dozens of times in articles and on Web sites, probably garnering much more in mentions than the placement costs.




Since then, product placement has grown into a huge business for many films. Speaking of in-your-face ads, who can forget the shameless Head and Shoulders product-placement attempt in "Evolution," when everybody knows the best source for selenium sulfide is Selsun Blue?

Oh, wait. Did anyone outside of Arizona see "Evolution"? The king of product placement is the "James Bond" series, which some credit with the creation of the product-placement industry. Of course, when a movie like "Quantum of Solace" can generate approximately 50 million pounds in product-placement fees, producers are not going to turn that away for artistic integrity.

But it does not take a mega budget for one to take advantage of product-placement opportunities. Those opportunities are available on a local level and often just for the cost of a couple of cases of product. Granted, the impact will not match that of "Indiana Jones," but for a local company or small distributor, the benefits of dropping a case of product off at the local television or radio station can carry the weight of a celebrity endorsement.

Of course, not all on-air personalities will provide a free spot for some product, so it is important to do some research and to choose a time for your delivery that may make a bigger splash than normal. Many broadcasters, especially at radio stations, are involved in community-service activities. Delivering product in conjuncture with a fundraiser or special event will almost always generate a mention, most likely several throughout the day as the announcers use the donation to spur others to contribute.

For example, in conjunction with a local mattress chain, a radio station in Phoenix is holding “sleep-ins” across the valley to raise money and donations for a local food bank. One of the daytime jocks is doing his show from a bed set up outside the store where people can drop off canned goods or money. Not only does the mattress store receive promos: People who stop by with relevant items are mentioned throughout the day.

Broadcast mentions are transitory, so it might be worth the time to get to know the local filmmakers. Low-budget films have a large and loyal following, and feature films or video programs have more legs than a news show or special event.

You can bank on low-budget filmmakers being grateful for almost anything they can lay hands on that will help stretch their budget. Granted, a lot of the products are not really great, but the benefits of being featured in "Napoleon Dynamite," "Paranormal Activity," "Clerks," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," or "The Polish Vampire in Burbank" could far outreach the cost of the product or the hassle of letting the filmmaker take over a business for a few hours.

If you think that product placement is not popular, just take a look at “Valentine’s Day." Ready?

According to BrandChannel, the one-week wonder featured:

  • 1-800-Flowers
  • adidas
  • American Airlines
  • American Express
  • Apple
  • BlackBerry
  • Blazer
  • Cadillac
  • Cartier
  • Chanel
  • Chevrolet
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Christian Louboutin
  • Craigslist,
  • Discovery Channel
  • ESPN
  • evite.com
  • Facebook
  • FedEx
  • Ford
  • Gatorade
  • Hollywood Forever Cemetary
  • Indiana University
  • International Creative Management
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, Mapquest
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Moët & Chandon
  • Nike
  • Nokia
  • Northwestern University
  • Polaroid
  • Porsche
  • PUMA
  • Quiksilver
  • Range Rover
  • Retin-A,
  • Scope
  • Sharpie
  • Sony
  • Southwest Airlines,
  • Stanford University
  • The BLVD (Los Angeles)
  • The Lawrence Foundation
  • Toyota, Tufts University
  • U.S. Army
  • USPS
  • Versace
  • Victoria's Secret
  • Volkswagen Beetle
  • Walt Disney
  • Concert Hall
  • Yale
  • York

It's likely each forked out more for a few seconds than it would have cost to be a presenting sponsor for an entire season of Whole Food’s cooking show.


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About the Author

James Brandt is the program director for Advision Media, a Digital Signage company, and owner of Brandt Media, a consulting company for film and television producers, advertisers, and media content production.

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