And the 2015 Oscar Goes To…Brand Placement

With the 2015 Oscars on our doorstep, the world is talking about movies and enjoying the flurry of releases that come with awards season. With that in mind, have you always wondered what the story behind product placement in movies is? And does it even work? Well the new less abrasive term for it is “embedded marketing”.

Is it intentional?

You’ve no doubt seen movies where the logo is mysteriously missing from the laptop or the range rover car has no shots where the logo can be seen. This is simply because they have not paid for it (unless you’re Apple, apparently who doesn’t pay for any product placement). What you can be sure of though is that when the logo is there, it’s almost always been paid for, and in a lot of ways it is what continues to drive the industry forward into bigger budget blockbusters. With the money, movies find a source of revenue other than ticket sales. It’s a hot topic for discussion however with many who feel that the product placement trend has gone too far with movies becoming walking billboards for a range of different brands in more than obvious ways. Either way, it’s safe to assume brand placement (sorry…embedded marketing) is here to stay.

Stellar Artois in Birdman

Is it worthwhile?

So why do brands invest into brand and product placement? The power of movie brand placement is three-fold.

1. Your audience is large

Firstly, you hold a significantly sized audience now and into the future when the movie is watched for the years to come. Your brand is crystallised in history, ready to be seen again (depending of course on the success of the movie).

2. Your audience is engaged

When watching a movie, experts will tell us that our senses and attention are both heightened as we take in what is usually a large amount of data. We are physiologically primed to receive messages from brands. When watching what we perceive to be ‘known advertising’ in the form of let’s say, a television commercial, our barriers are raised and our attention is often lapsing with over 66% of viewers tuning out according to Business Week.

3. Your audience aligns you with the movie

When we see a brand in a movie, it alters or reaffirms our perception of that brand depending on how it is displayed or used. Seeing James Bond drive a certain car or speak on a certain phone is consciously and subconsciously driving a message to the perception part of our brain to align the two, and for brands who take full advantage of this effect, it can be a very positive thing.

What do brands pay?

There is no hard and fast rule for brand placement in movies except to say, it’s a lot. In general, product placement is estimated to be a $25 billion dollar industry annually and for these reasons, you can understand why it’s part of the budgeting process for major movie releases and perhaps the foundation that is driving its growth, with illegal downloading on the rise and ticket sales on the decline.

  • Heineken reportedly paid $45 million to be seen in James Bond’s “Skyfall”.
  • In “Quantum of Solace” MGM reportedly made over $100 million in product placements by Virgin, Sony and Ford, amongst others.
  • Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” clocked in 55 brand placements in the movie (less than its predecessor who showcased 71 brands throughout the movie).

Does it work?

I think we know it works. It’s unlikely brands will continue to invest money into brand placement if they didn’t perceive a significant value returned. Often brand placement deals can be leveraged outside of the cinema as well with references to the movie throughout deals and other online media.

  • “Risky business” in 1983 starring Tom Cruise saved Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer sunglasses from extinction with a 45% spike in sales.
  • “The Italian Job” remake in 2003 increased mini cooper sales by 22%
  • The BMW Z3 Roadster clocked $250 million in advance sales following the 1995 debut in the film “Golden Eye”.
  • “Toy Story” showed an etch-a-sketch. Sales increased 4,500% Reece’s Peeces in “ET” saw profits skyrocket by 65% for Hershey’s two weeks after release.

So next time you’re watching a movie, have a look for all the brands that are likely funding the production of it.