Beyond product placement, delays can be a logistical nightmare for brands tying up with movies on the merchandise front.
“Merchandise doesn’t get created in 25 minutes,” says Marty Brochstein, senior VP of industry relations at New York-based Licensing International. “If there’s a kids’ movie that has a toy line attached, there is a lot of development time. When a movie gets taken off the schedule, it affects everything. The goods are probably being shipped and are having to sit in somebody’s warehouse.”
This has meant that in some cases over the past year and a half, merchandise has sometimes reached shelves ahead of the movie opening, for example with "Wonder Woman 1984." "But then you’re not getting the big crescendo of promotional activity that the toy company is depending upon,” Brochstein says. Plus, as he points out, there is another potential problem; as Variety outlined, some of the merchandise for the Wonder Woman movie actually included spoilers from the movie (including a Mattel figure of Kirsten Wiig’s character in her final form as a cheetah).
Still worth it?
The big question now for brands is whether blockbuster movie partnerships are still worth it. According to Publicis’ Bertelli, marketers are increasingly choosing to partner with streaming platforms like Netflix and Apple on TV shows rather than focus on big box office openings.
“You will see more and more partnerships with Netflix,” he says. “They are faster, more precise and they share the content with you—it is much more manageable for brands. It’s becoming too difficult to partner with big productions where you don’t get to see the script or know when the film will be released. You can also choose the series that is most suitable for your brand.”
It's not just TV of course; over the pandemic, more big movie releases have been released on streaming platforms. Licensing specialists believe most contracts will be around theatrical releases of movies, rather than streaming. But things are changing. Bertelli believes that with streaming, the lack of the big box office opening does not necessarily matter because “with Gen Z, the effect can be even bigger."
Licensing International’s Brochstein is a little more circumspect over streaming. “If you are dealing with a movie that is just being premiered on a streaming platform, that story is still being written,” he says. “With streaming, everyone is feeling their way, because you are not getting the big crescendo of the opening weekend. It’s very much a case of an industry in flux."
Sunshine’s Warren also predicts an “acceleration of volume of high-quality content and a blurring between feature and TV," although he points out that that the current crop of box office releases are still heavy on product placement. "You can't turn around without bumping into a BMW in 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.'"
"Bond is an interesting case study because all of that marketing machine was in place and everything changed the week before it launched. But in the intervening 18 months, we have had massive sea changes in how people watch movies.”
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