Trying to price placement

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Product placement usually has a price, but until now its value was anybody's guess.

ITVX, which bills itself as the "interactive product placement network," is a new company that intends to put dollar signs on placements in much the same way that commercials are valued. ITVX will charge clients between $2,000 and $5,000 per month for the right to access its Web site, where it will quantify the value of each placement across various parameters.

ITVX currently is showing prospective clients, including Kraft Foods and Unilever, demos at the site, where various past placements are valued. Those demo valuations range from $3,389, for a three-second walk-by in front of a supermarket aisle featuring All detergent in a 1999 episode of HBO's "Sex and the City" all the way to more than $226,536 for a lengthy 1994 "Friends" placement on NBC in which a bottle of Snuggle detergent was not only held but also mentioned by one of the characters.

"For the first time we're taking subjectivity and making it objective," said Frank Zazza, the placement veteran who heads iTVX.

To do this, iTVX has developed a scale of product exposure levels. The lowest level, for example, is simply a clear product logo in the background of a shot or a scene. Level 3 is "background plus a close-up" that includes the product. Level 6 includes not only a product close-up but also a "hands-on" interaction by one of the actors. Level 9 adds a verbal mention to the hands-on interaction. And at level 10, a show's entire episode is written around a product; for example, the Junior Mints episode of "Seinfeld," in which Jerry and Kramer munch the candies while watching a surgical procedure. The value of that exposure is "off the charts," Mr. Zazza said.

"It's really going to mean a lot to our organization in terms of putting a value on product placement," said Louise Milano, marketing resource manager, Unilever. "It puts a number on it and people like to see numbers," said Ms. Milano, who had recently viewed the iTVX demonstration.

Among other factors in the iTVX formula are length of time the product is shown and the "impact factor" of a placement, which Mr. Zazza defined as the "percentage of the value of a product-placement second in a show [compared] to that of a commercial second if purchased for the show."

That impact factor can range from a small percentage of the cost of an equivalent commercial to "as high as 500% of a commercial second," according to Mr. Zazza. Approximately twice as many people watch a show than the commercials within it, he added, and viewers tend to have a better recall of the show.

ITVX will offer clients information on placements in any show on the six broadcast networks as well as on HBO, Lifetime and Discovery, Mr. Zazza said.

Mr. Chunovic is a reporter for Electronic Media.

Fast Facts

ITVX: Puts dollar value on product placement

$3,389: Cost of a 3-second walk-by in front of a supermarket aisle featuring All detergent on "Sex in the City"

$22,980: Cost of a 7-second close-up of Sunlight on "Everybody Loves Raymond"

$226,536: Cost of lengthy "Friends" placement for Snuggle, including cast member holding package

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