SAVORING A RARE VINTAGE OF PRODUCT PLACEMENTS

How Aaron Gordon Puts Wine in the Movies and TV

By Published on .

Most Popular
Who: Aaron Gordon, president of Set Resources, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based product placement and entertainment marketing shop.

The company's clients include Clos Du Val, which has become the most visible wine brand in TV and film, securing 50
Aaron Gordon, president of Set Resources in Santa Monica.

percent of the placements for wine on screen. It most recently appeared in the Academy Award-nominated flick about wine and love, Sideways. Another client, Clausthaler, and its sibling beer Raderberger also appeared in Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated Million Dollar Baby.

Credentials: Mr. Gordon previously worked as director of public relations for Corinthian Colleges, a $200 million career education institute with over 80 locations around the country. Prior to that, he was an account director for Working Press PR, an entertainment publicity firm in Santa Monica, Calif., where he worked with clients in product placement, celebrity endorsements and events, and entertainment-related promotions. "I started my career in politics, not entertainment, as an assistant to a congressman from Virginia," he said. "The two fields have more similarities than most people can imagine."

Who are Set Resources' clients? Kyocera Wireless, Haagen-Dazs, Sara Lee, Visa International, Bubblicious, Clos Du Val Winery, Scotts, Swiffer, Auntie Anne's, Stolichnaya Vodka, Malibu Rum, Clausthaler Brewery, Starwood Hotels and Choice Hotels. Because of the successful placements it has set up for Clos Du Val in the past, Set Resources recently landed Blackstone Winery as a client.

Smaller brands seem to be capitalizing on product placement more than ever. Why is that? "Product placement, celebrity outreach and entertainment promotions can have the same benefits, if not more, to a smaller company that is trying to stand out and create brand presence, but doesn't necessarily have a Fortune top-100 marketing budget. Brands like Auntie Anne's, Clausthaler and Clos Du Val can really have a huge impact by being seen in the biggest films and most popular TV shows. And they can compete on an even playing-field in product placement with their larger competitors."

Wine is enjoying a bigger presence on sets. Why now?
"Not all products have the same opportunity for placement in film and TV. There are many more placement opportunities for snack foods, beverages and automobiles than there are for hole-punchers, video conferencing equipment or cappuccino makers. Wine is just such a great product for productions because it says something about the characters in the story, which is essential for a good moviemaker."

What have movies like Sideways done for the wine industry? Are more
wineries now clamoring for placement?
"The effect that a film like Sideways has on the wine industry is tremendous. I can't find a good bottle of pinot at my local Trader Joe's anymore. From my understanding, wine sales have risen dramatically from the popularity of the film."

How do you measure success when it comes to product placement?
"Set Resources is one of the few firms in the industry that has developed a placement valuation methodology. From the 'Brand Recognition Grade' we assign to placements, which is based on several factors including screen time, visibility, on-screen position, brand portrayal and the audience size, we are able to provide an exact valuation on each and every placement for our clients."

What do you consider good product placement? "Common sense is usually the best guide for evaluating a placement. A good product placement is when the brand is positively portrayed and stands out onscreen, but is not invasive to the viewer. The last thing we or the production wants is for the audience to be turned off by a product that is out of place or too overt."

What kind of placements do you think really worked recently? Visa's placement in National Treasure, and Haagen-Dazs in The Stepford Wives and The Princess Diaries 2. "In both films, the characters are not only eating from pints of Haagen-Dazs, they are obviously loving every last bite. ... Every placement on shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where the audience is a perfect target for brands on the show."

What doesn't work? "I'm not a fan of forced placements on shows like Survivor, The Restaurant and American Idol.

What types of products do you think we'll see more of on sets that didn't
get much exposure before?
"Prop masters, set decorators and directors are always looking for new and interesting products to help define their characters. Often times, productions would rather use an Auntie Anne's shop rather than McDonalds, or a bottle of Clausthaler beer rather than a Bud. They are different from the norm. Drinking a Clausthaler defines the character as someone with high-end taste that likes a good import beer, rather than the regular Joe that drinks Bud, while an Auntie Anne's stands out to the audience as an interesting specialty store with great pretzels, rather than your plain old fast-food restaurant."

What keeps you up at night?
"Clients, the Washington Wizards and the latest from Paul Wolfowitz. In that order."

What do you do on your downtime?
"What downtime? Actually, I love to travel. I've spent more than two years overseas in India, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. I also enjoy playing basketball, reading and falling off a surfboard and snowboard."