“I Saw Your Brand on TV!” (The Top 3 Ways Product Placements Happen)

So, you’ve got a product or service and you know that product placement can get you exposure without the expense of buying commercial time or even where commercials don’t air (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc.). The obvious next question is, how do I get my product placed? Hiring a product placement company is the obvious answer, but there’s much more to it than that.

Not every brand can expect the same results just because they hired a product placement agency. The brand itself is key to how in-demand they will be by production. Brands are ‘cast’ into shows, just like actors, so the more versatile the ‘actor’ is, the more work they’re likely to book. So how do you shape and position your brand to score the product placements that deliver wide exposure and give you the material you need for attention-grabbing social media posts?

Here are the three top ways:

1. Your Brand Helps Identify the Character or Scene

It starts by understanding what product placement really is, from the production side. For you, product placement simply means your brand receives exposure within the content of a TV show or film. But production probably isn’t a co-owner of your brand, so their view is quite different. To production, your brand is simply a prop. Even the most high-profile brand integrations in movies like, say, James Bond’s Omega Watch, are just props in the eyes of production. The placed item must be of specific use to the production. So your uniquely-designed fishing lure simply won’t have as many opportunities as a bottled water. This is not to say a fishing lure wouldn’t be good product placement bait, but think about what you see on screen when you watch films or TV. Do you see more bottled water or fishing lures? Now apply that to your product. Is it something you see often? Okay, that was kind of a trick question.

Let’s stick with the fishing lure example and name the product, “Joe’s Mega Swimbait Lures.” Maybe Joe’s lures don’t have many on screen applications, but there are certainly many characters who could be fisherman, so what if Joe’s had a great cap or t-shirt with a fun picture of a lure and text reading, Joe’s Mega Swimbait Lures are Irresistible? Now were speaking production’s language; a wardrobe piece that identifies the character. Again, productions don’t have a vested interest in selling Joe’s lures, but they do need to identify their characters, so Joe’s could score some screen time with this hook. The more applications a brand has for onscreen use and the wider variety of branded assets they can supply, the more screen time they’ll score.

Your brand’s onscreen uses have nothing specifically to do with production wanting to promote it. The question is, how can your brand help production get their job done.

2. Your Brand is Saving Production Money

A product placement company has two primary functions: assist productions and deliver brand integrations to their clients. However, it simply can’t do the latter without doing the former. The best way to help a production is to save them money, period. The way in which a product placement company saves productions money happens to have the terrific side effect of delivering their clients exposures. So, let’s look at another way Joe’s Mega Swimbait Lures get exposure without a fishing scene or even a specific fisherman character.Let’s say there is a film production that features characters attending an outdoor products trade show. Dressing a trade show floor is a big job for a production and low hanging fruit for a product placement agency. We know that production needs LOTS of booths for the scene to look realistic, and what could be more realistic than real brands’ trade show booths? Well, Joe’s has a great booth and will loan it to production to shoot the scene. Better still, Joe’s booth is covered in Joe’s brand messaging, which means when the camera hits it, Joe’s will communicate that message to viewers of the film. It’s a win win for production and Joe’s.

Once Joe’s booth is built on set, the brand could actually do even better than a just some background screen time. If the director likes the look of Joe’s booth, it could be used as a backdrop for some dialogue between actors. Now, not only is Joe’s getting screen time, but the viewers can associate it with the movie stars who are talking in front of it. And once the film is released, Joe’s could be creating social media posts showing the brand with the stars of the film, generating high-profile attention and maybe some new fans. Paying fees for integration in films or for celebrity endorsements is way too rich for Joe’s budget, but in this scenario, simply lending their trade show to a production, Joe’s scores both!

Again; the more branded assets a brand can offer, the more opportunities for on screen placement they’ll receive.

3. Your Brand is Promoting Their Show

The term “cross promotion” is self-explanatory; two entities promoting one another. Generally, when a brand manager considers this method, their minds go to gigantic examples of it, like Bond and Omega, where the production negotiated having the film represented in Omega’s worldwide advertising in exchange for 007 using the watch on screen. But there is a lot of area for smaller versions of such deals to be made. How would Joe’s Lures pull this off?

Joe’s certainly doesn’t have the media power of Omega Watches, but they do advertise in magazines like Field and Stream and American Angler. They also have floor displays for their products in stores like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops. The Outdoor Channel’s Big Water Adventures is a perfect platform for exposing the brand, but they don’t have the budget to buy commercial time on its air. The next logical step (again, this can be negotiated by a product placement company), would be to offer to tag Big Water Adventures in Joe’s advertisements and on the packaging shoppers will see on the floor displays. Big Water Adventures may be a show, but its also a brand and, as such, needs to promote itself as well.

Of course there are dozens of ways to create and execute product placements for virtually any brand – if fishing lures have a route to success, there are no limits! Brand integrations in movies and TV happen at every level, from the branded construction locker on a building site to the high-tech equipment in an action film. The trick is to have a full understanding of the brand’s assets and capabilities and as we’d recommend, a creative, proactive representative.

©2018 Steve Ochs
Steve Ochs is a multiple award-winning bestselling author, veteran TV producer/writer and partner in HERO Entertainment Marketing, Inc. a top product placement agency for more than twenty years.