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Thinking Outside Of The Box Office

Posted on July 30, 2002 and read 476 times

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Let me begin by stating, contrary to popular belief, no brand, trademark, or product appears on your television or movie screen by accident. There are numerous tools and technologies available to marketers, providing implied celebrity endorsement opportunities within filmed entertainment content. These product placements can be dramatically enhanced from media and sales promotion platforms; creating customized brand initiatives designed to cut through the clutter.

It is more than likely that you, or your clients, have received calls from production companies requesting product (or a representation there of) as a ‘prop’ or ‘set-decoration’. Sometimes, simply clearance to reference the brand within the dialogue of a particular program or film is required. Answering these calls, without the proper background knowledge and due diligence, can prove suicidal for your brands.

Reading this now, you may assume I’ve bought right into the drama and fantasy that the Hollywood machinery creates – Not so! Actually, it is the other way around.

Many of my clients have learned this lesson the hard way. In the not too distant past, an episode of “Will and Grace” more than suggested that using “Pledge” would ruin the finish of precious antiques. Through a fictional reference to “The Antique Roadshow,” millions of admirers watched their much beloved characters, “Grace” and “Jack,” tarnish the goodwill of this historic brand. Research has, of course, shown a greater level of retention can be acquired by an audience truly enjoying the content they are viewing. Their guard is down. They are relaxed – In this case even laughing! And what’s worse? SC Johnson and Son (makers and marketers of “Pledge,” and numerous other household cleaning products) had absolutely no recourse. Why? Presumably, someone within the company’s US headquarters or AOR received a call from the producers of “Will and Grace,” offering fantastic exposure for their brand within the hit show. The marketer heeded the call from Hollywood, with stars in their eyes – Not once pausing to request script pages, or a synopsis showing how their product was to be depicted within this particular episode.

Policing the brand. It sounds so obvious. In fact, this process is a rather large part of a fully integrated product placement program. However, as traditional advertising agencies and brand folk struggle to protect the brands entrusted to their care – without venturing too far from the confines of traditional media – like audiences everywhere, their guard tends to come down when an entertainment property comes into view.

With all of this said; collisions where Madison meets Vine do not have to result in brand casualties. Given proper consideration, and attention to every nuance – storyline, image of associated characters and, of key importance, how the product or brand is depicted or used on-screen – product placement can provide avenues for specific brands to create an extremely effective, lasting impression on a targeted consumer group’s psyche.

One of the most heavily discussed examples of this focussed method of product integration has recently hit DVD players everywhere, while it’s vehicle continues to receive numerous accolades as the highest grossing independent feature film of all time… You guessed it: ‘My Big Fat’ – Windex placement! In this case, under the watchful guidance of a product placement agency (Insert plug: Premier Entertainment Services), this non-traditional and extremely humourous placement of an SC Johnson cleaner proved very fortuitous to the brand’s further growth within a highly populated product category. At theatre level, product sampling was added to the marketing mix, layering the entertaining impact.

A revolution is upon us. As our clients grow within this medium and begin to understand how to manipulate its brand leveraging power, a far more cohesive relationship is forming between content and commerce. An understanding of both sides, along with the ability to forge strategic creative partnerships is critical. This is the difference between being left standing on the red carpet, and being escorted through Hollywood’s (and Hollywood North’s) expansive velvet rope. The next time the burly doorman asks if you’re on the guestlist – Tell him you’re with the brand!


Kevin September is Director, Business Development, at Premier Entertainment Services, Canada. Premier Entertainment has offices in Toronto, Los Angeles, and London England. Premier works directly with studios, networks, and production companies; integrating products, P.O.P, and numerous other brand representations; into a myriad of filmed entertainment properties around the globe. SC Johnson, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson (Buell), Choice Hotels Canada, Diageo, Adams, and Coors Light are among their more than 20 camera-ready clients.






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