|8x8 phone equipment has been inserted into episodes of NBC's 'Will & Grace.'
The deal: Internet phone company 8x8 Inc. hired Eclipse Worldwide to place its devices in TV shows.
The result: The move helped generate awareness for 8x8’s products through placements on shows including ABC’s Alias, CBS’s The King of Queens and CSI, NBC’s Will & Grace and HBO’s Entourage.
Internet video phone company 8x8 Inc. knew it had a problem when it started selling its Packet8 phones. Consumers just weren’t aware of the sleek devices or what they could do.
But the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company’s options were limited. With TV ads being too expensive for 8x8’s modest marketing budget, product placement made the most sense, the company said.
Executives naturally turned to the Web for help. They searched Google and typed in "product placement." Then they started sifting through the responses. One that stood out pretty quickly was Eclipse Worldwide, which specializes in technology and unique new products. And since the Packet8 video phone from 8x8 is both, it seemed like a good fit.
A little more than a year later, both sides agree that the partnership has been a success.
During that time, Eclipse has integrated the Packet8 phones on a variety of top-rated TV shows including ABC’s Alias, CBS’s The King of Queens, and CSI, and NBC’s Will & Grace. It will also be prominently featured in the upcoming season of HBO’s Entourage.
The Packet8 Broadband Consumer VideoPhone sells for $99 and has a monthly service fee of $19.95.
The company didn’t care whether the Packet8 would be visible in every camera shot. The goal of the placements was more general than just spurring sales of 8x8’s phones.
“We really just wanted to build the awareness that this technology exists,” said Huw Rees, vice president of marketing and sales for 8x8. “The benefit of TV is it's really the only media where you can see a video phone.”
Forrester Research analyst Maribel Lopez said while video phones have been talked about "forever," it is hard to describe the benefits without seeing the product.
"Product placement is a good way to show how to use them and why it would be a good product to own," she said. So getting "hip people in a cool show" to use the phone is not a bad way for a company like Packet8 to spend advertising dollars, she said.
Jon Holtzman, the president and founder of Eclipse, knows a bit about cool and hip people and pairing them up with products. He launched Apple Computers’ product placement program in the late '80s and ran it through 1996, when he left to start his own company, Eclipse. The agency focuses on technology and category breakout products and does not do any pay-for-placements.
"Product placement works better with tech products, I think," Mr. Holtzman said. "If you see someone pick up a Pepsi, you say, 'Oh, product placement.' But when someone on Alias makes a video phone call, you don't really notice -- it doesn't take you out of the story."
Another reason technology product placement works well is the high cost for production companies to purchase their own tech products or props. For that reason, shows who want or need technology don't charge fees because they are saving such a considerable amount of money in rental or purchase costs.
Also, tech products also don't need a prominent logo displayed, as each tends to be uniquely designed, Mr. Holtzman maintains. "When you saw an iMac on TV, you just knew it was an iMac, you didn't need to see the Apple logo," he said.
However, that doesn't mean tech products can just use product placement as their sole marketing channel. Messrs. Holtzman and Rees said product placement is just one tool that puts 8x8 in the mix. In fact, the company mentions the product placements in its online advertising to help jog peoples’ memories, as in the video phone seen on Alias.
"You definitely need to take that next step, that 'as seen in,' and then show the pictures to connect the two. They need to put in the extra effort to make the connection for consumers," Mr. Holtzman said.
Mr. Rees added, "Product placement is the start of getting the message across."