The Spin On Product Placement

Flacks in it to win

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% While brand marketers know that the Norm Marshalls and Davie-Browns of the world have been perennial mainstays in the product placement business, people may be surprised to hear just how much of an emphasis that traditional public relations shops are placing on the discipline and perhaps even more surprised to hear how long some of them have been at it.

Mark Malinowski, senior VP, director of Ketchum Entertainment Marketing in New York, has been involved in getting brands into Hollywood going back to his days at Levi Strauss while Bragman Nyman Cafarelli CEO Michael Nyman's first foray into product placement was in 1992 with his Schieffelin & Somerset client.

M+V's Claire Atkinson chatted with the two men about the increasing role of entertainment marketing in their practices.

M+V: Do you actively pitch product placement as a marketing discipline to clients?

MM: Yes, when it makes sense for a brand. For example, if a brand is looking to infiltrate popular culture and provide an aspirational lifestyle message to the consumer, then a pro-active and strategic product placement program makes a lot of sense. That said, if it's great positioning for a brand, it can also offer up a bigger-picture marketing platform that could include retail, online, advertising and public relations components.

MN: Yes, we do pitch placement. However, it is part of an overall entertainment marketing mix, which we believe provides us with a competitive advantage.

M+V: How do you measure its effectiveness?

MN: All clients have their preferred measurement of success in placement. We guide the process of measurement by providing a value based on time on screen, viewership and frequency.

MM: A solid brand/entertainment partnership can be measured in several ways, including sales, positive brand PR, and heightened consumer awareness. Again, it's not just about the placement, but what is built around it to maximize its effectiveness with the consumer and drive the marketing message home. I think smart marketers are beginning to understand this more and more.

M+V: Which network or studio is most interested/least interested in product placement deals?

MN: While all networks are interested, ABC and The WB are the most engaged. From a studio perspective, all studios are treating placement with greater importance and as a result are looking at opportunities that combine placement and promotion.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% MM: The WB has built some great brand/property partnerships. Most recently, we completed a WB partnership with Gillette's women's cancers program and "Dawson's Creek." Since the show's final episodes revolve around a female character's breast cancer diagnosis, it made perfect sense to create a print and broadcast PSA campaign with The WB, and partner with the show's producers and stars Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams to promote Gillette's "cancer resource" Web site,

M+V: Overall, how big do you see product placement growing in the future?

MN: From a financial perspective there has not been tremendous growth in this area. If you were to poll product placement firms, they would tell you their revenues have not climbed at the same levels of ad agencies and pr firms over the last 20 years. However, corporations are now savvy to placement and are engaged in exploring it. This will bring greater marketing dollars. As a result, ad agencies, talent agencies, promotion companies and hybrid marketing agencies are all throwing their hats into the ring. Additionally, the studios, networks and labels have built an infrastructure to embrace the enthusiasm. As viewers and technology impact the relationship of commercials to programming, companies will continue to seek opportunities in reality programming, branded content, sponsored programming and integrated marketing.

MM: Product placement will grow as the media landscape continues to evolve and more entertainment options are presented to consumers. However, the key will always be to make the partnerships seamless and organic. At the end of the day, it's about making a positive impression on the consumer and that's where the true test lies. Growth will come as brands become more aligned with potential entertainment partners and the specific needs of both are better understood. Right now, I think we're really still in the newlywed stage. However, it's evolving quickly.

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