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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
A.Sandeep Editor’s Desk
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With millions being spent in making movies, brand managers are integrating products into stories thus providing branded entertainment to create brand recall with the emotional connect
“As discussed, I guarantee that I will use Brown & Williamson tobacco products in no less than five feature films. It is my understanding that Brown & Williamson will pay a fee of $500,000.00. Hoping to hear from you soon.” The writer of this letter dated April 28, 1983 – written to ‘Bob’, a film promotion associate, to confirm an agreement – was none other than one of the greatest action cinestars of all time, Sylvester Stallone. It is one of most famous instances of product placement and endorsement in motion pictures. However, much earlier in the 1920s, the first ever denunciation of product placement appeared in the weekly periodical Harrison’s Reports that lambasted Red Crown gasoline appearing in the 1919 Fatty Arbuckle comedy The Garage. But the establishment of in-film product placement as a fad happened much later in the 1990s.

Today, in the rapidly changing world of global communications, big brands have gained attractive consumer connect by placing themselves in sync with a motion picture’s real life feel. It was quite evident when Mission Impossible and Independence Day saved the day for Apple in 1996. The Twilight franchise saw actor Robert Pattinson driving a shiny Volvo XC 60 which generated over 4 million hits on Google on searching the terms “Volvo/Twilight/Eclipse”. Globally, there has been an increase in the sales of Volvo since the premier of the first Twilight movie in 2008. Similarly, Tony Stark [Robert Downey Jr.] displays 3D printing technology in Iron Man 2 using Apple Macs, positioning Apple as a highly advanced computing giant enhancing the brand identity.

New PQ Media report finds US branded entertainment spending on consumer events and product placement dipped [only] 1.3% to $24.63 Billion in 2009 and is on track to grow 5.3% in 2010, exceeding most advertising and marketing segments. Patrick Quinn, CEO of PQ Media, told AdAge recently, “It used to be that you’d buy this much commercial time and the networks would throw in these product placements for you. Now, you have agencies whose job is to add brands into scripts, making the real estate of the screen more and more important.” Movie producers are always looking to alternative revenue sources; and placing products in movies serves the purpose of both branding and promotion. The recent Tom Cruise flick Knight and Day portrays the icon on a Ducati closely followed by Benz cars in various death defying action sequences throughout the movie. Brands like Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Adidas are regulars in Hollywood and spend big bucks on product placements.

Films have become great mediums for branding and advertising where masses can be captured without any disturbance. Hence, subtle brand placement in any sequence gives the product its due importance and adds value to the brand. One external factor propelling the growth of product placements in movies in developed markets has been the advent of Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) such as TiVO. This enables the viewers to skip ads and research has shown that the ad skipping frequency enhances with the longevity of a household owning a DVR. However, in-film placement holds the promise only if the brand gets due diligence and is not used as a prop. The brand has to remain true to the consumer also. Product placement is effective only if it is seamlessly woven into the script. Poor placement can result in viewer fatigue or even illogical conclusions – for example, the protagonist Bella (in Twilight) cribs about her old computer; but one can clearly make out in the movie Twilight that the so-called computers is actually an Apple Mac book.

The need for branded entertainment has risen enough and media spending by brands is on the rise too. Other media vehicles like television, film, radio and internet etc. carry great importance but films have created a niche space in the ad world. And with 3D movie viewing just about to engross the world and 3D film revenues soaring, product placement in motion pictures will generate newer paradigms in brand advertising and it’s only a matter of time before in-film advertising takes over its traditional counterparts.

Sanchit Verma           
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