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Silver Screen Stardom: 6 Benefits of Branding and Product Placement in Films

Diana Beyer

Brands work with movie production houses to include their products or mentions of their products in films as a means to subtly advertise.

Movie theaters don’t disrupt your viewing experience to show commercials. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t being reached by advertisers.

In fact, one of the most famous instances of in-film advertising happened in the 1980s in a movie called "E.T.".

The featured product was Reese's Pieces, and the film had a huge impact on the popularity of the candy.

It’s worth noting that Reeses Pieces wasn't the first choice of Stephen Spielberg and his team. They wanted to use M&M candies instead but were turned down.

Brands work with movie production houses to include their products or mentions of their products in films as a means to subtly advertise them to you. In addition to this, many companies also use these opportunities to increase brand awareness.

Why bother? Why not stick with traditional advertising methods, or (seemingly) less expensive content marketing efforts. The answer is that the benefits are huge, not just for brands but moviemakers and fans as well.

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In fact, here are six benefits that come from in-film advertising and branding.

1. Product Placement Can Make a Lesser Known Brand Skyrocket

The above mentioned Reese's Pieces is a perfect example of this. Combining a hit film with a product that has never quite made its mark can be extremely beneficial to marketing teams who are struggling to find ways to create traction.

2. It Can Get Audiences to Associate a Product With a Certain Lifestyle

Decades ago, James Bond famously ordered a martini, "shaken not stirred". Because of that line, moviegoers associated the martini with wealth, opulence, adventure and bravado. In one of the newest incarnations of the James Bond franchise, the current blond-haired, blue-eyed Bond turns down the offer of his signature and drink and opts for a Heineken instead.

Does this mean that the intention was to associate the Heineken brand with that same high-class lifestyle? No, it doesn’t. In this case, it was a strategic way to capitalize on the change in direction for the James Bond character. A beer certainly seems to be a better fit for an edgier and more intense Bond, doesn’t it? It will be interesting to see which of the much-anticipated films of 2016 will use this technique.

3. Brands Can Form a Symbiotic Relationship With Movie Production Companies

In-film product placement and branding often results in a mutually beneficial relationship between productions houses and corporations. In the example of Reese's Pieces and "E.T.", the Hershey company entered into an agreement with Stephen Spielberg’s production company. They would promote the film in their commercials and on their product packaging. In turn, they would be allowed to place their product in the film.

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4. It Can Make Audience Members Feel Like Insiders

You’re watching a scene in a movie when for some reason a familiar jingle from a product you know begins playing, or one of the prime characters makes a clever reference to that product. If you catch it, it gives you the sense that you are a bit of an insider, that you are in on the reference. Audiences appreciate that feeling of familiarity and even sentimentality.

5. Filmmakers Can Earn More Money

Most movie production companies do not rely solely on ticket sales for revenue generation. Instead, they seek multiple income streams from a single film. This includes merchandising, branding partnerships, and in film advertising and branding. For example, a film might earn 45 million dollars in ticket sales. If the filmmakers have also made an in-film advertising deal with a major brand, they could possibly earn another 25 percent of that over and above ticket revenues. Of course, the specifics of each deal will vary.

6. Indie Filmmakers Can Use Product Placement to Raise Funds

Independent filmmakers often struggle to get the funding together to launch their filmmaking ventures. In many cases, they are left to cobble together investments from individuals and few organizations that are willing to fund indie film projects. In many cases, even if a film gets made, it never sees the light of day as post-production costs are often too much to overcome. Fortunately, Indie film producers can find new funding opportunities by allowing companies to use product placement and other branding methods in the films they are making.

Getting Your Products Into Film

You don’t need to be a major brand to earn a place in a movie for one of your products. Independent filmmakers and student filmmakers are often willing to work with smaller businesses that are willing to help fund their projects. One option you have is to contact a reputable placement agency to see if they can connect you with a fitting film project.

You can also look for film projects happening in your area. One way to do this is to look at Craigslist under "Gigs" for crew and event ads. These posts often solicit for extras and actors. You can use that contact information to find the film’s website and social media presence, and contact the principles about getting your product placed in the film.

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It is not difficult to find examples of product placement and branding in films. In fact, it would be more challenging to find a movie that doesn’t contain some element of this. In some films, such as “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”, the placement is quite blatant. Then there are films such as “The Great Gatsby” where more subtle methods were used to enhance the branding efforts of Tiffany & Co. In any case, it is clear that this isn’t going away, and that’s a good thing. Clearly, filmmakers, audiences, and brands are all benefitting from this.

Image Credit: Wedding and lifestyle/Shutterstock
Diana Beyer Member