Orchid Cellmark Seeks Exposure for Consumer DNA Testing Services

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LOS ANGELES -- A multinational company that analyzes the tiniest bits of genetic information is looking for its Hollywood close-up.

Orchid Cellmark, which specializes in DNA testing for forensic research and law enforcement case work, has signed on with NMA Entertainment & Marketing for product placement, promotions and brand integration. The company also reps Hilton Hotels Corp., Heineken, Samsung, Sears and General Motors Corp.

A major presence in the law enforcement forensics field, Orchid Cellmark wants to use product placements to reach consumers who may want DNA testing services.

Consumer DNA services

The marketer, while working with high-profile law enforcement agencies like the New York and Los Angeles police departments, launched a service called Heritage ID in June that is aimed directly at consumers. The service can test for paternity and other family relationships. It also has a service with a sci-fi futuristic sounding name -- Biotracks -- that uses DNA evidence to solve burglaries and other property crimes.

Orchid Cellmark joins a growing number of nontraditional companies that are trying to wade into branded entertainment.

The most active players in the area are some of the most traditional, including auto, health and beauty products, food and beverages and, increasingly, retailers and financial services.

But now marketers of all stripes are continuing to search out ways to reach consumers beyond traditional media buys, and more of them in far-flung categories are exploring brand integration as an attention-getting tactic -- including Orchid Cellmark.

Rapidly changing marketplace

"We're hearing from brands that I would never even have envisioned would be interested in branded entertainment," said Norm Marshall, CEO of NMA Entertainment. "As the marketplace becomes more fragmented and traditional media isn't working, I expect that will continue."

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer last year signed a deal with the William Morris Agency to try to get some of its brands like Viagra, Lipitor and Celebrex embedded into entertainment projects. The company let the relationship lapse this year amid a flap with the Food and Drug Administration over some of its product line and the advertising around it. Branded entertainment took a back seat to other priorities, as the FDA continued to challenge Pfizer and other companies that market pharmaceuticals directly to consumers.

Among the other unusual players exploring branded entertainment of late are travel and tourism boards, hotels and casinos, and niche luxury products that don't have mass market advertising.

Not for every marketer

Not every marketer is primed for brand integration, Mr. Marshall said, but some can find logical reasons to be involved and projects that make sense. He thinks that Orchid Cellmark could fit into TV, films and other entertainment, but the relationship won't revolve solely around product placement.

"They're trying to build their brand name beyond the professional community," Mr. Marshall said.

There are a number of companies that analyze DNA for individuals, government agencies and the agriculture industry, though few are known outside a small arena. Some tabloid-style daytime talk shows have used DNA testing services, and referred to them by name, for episodes on paternity battles. Mr. Marshall said that's not the kind of integration he's thinking about for Orchid Cellmark.

Even so, there would seem to be ample opportunity for the service to be woven into police dramas or action movies, cable series and some of the procedural crime shows that now proliferate on network TV. Its forensic case work could make for compelling reality shows, short films or documentaries.

Affecting everybody

It's smart for a company like Orchid Cellmark to start touting itself to consumers, even though it's not a mainstream marketer, said Brad Ball, principal of branded entertainment firm Ball Entertainment Group. "Fragmentation is affecting everybody," Mr. Ball said, "and it's not going away."

In a growing area like DNA research, there's no recognizable brand name to consumers, but Orchid Cellmark could be taking the first steps to change that.

"Clients that are stepping up to the plate to learn more about brand integration will be better situated a year or two from now," Mr. Ball said. "If they build some name recognition, they'll have an advantage over their competitors."
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