Securing product placement in movies and TV shows is a complex endeavor that involves close collaboration with many different people, such as producers, directors, prop masters, set directors, stylists, make-up artists, and marketing teams. The process can be quite challenging due to the highly competitive nature of Hollywood productions. 

Numerous factors come into play when contemplating product placement, making it a multifaceted task. Filmmakers and TV producers are discerning about the products they choose to feature, giving priority to those that align seamlessly with the narrative, characters, and overall aesthetic of the project. Successful integration requires the product to blend harmoniously into the storyline, while considerations such as budget limitations, legal constraints, contractual obligations, and industry relationships further complicate matters.

Nonetheless, various approaches can be employed to facilitate product placement collaborations. Thorough research and strategic targeting are instrumental in identifying movies and TV shows that align with a brand’s identity and target audience. Engaging with production companies, studios, or networks involved in the content of interest is crucial, involving the preparation of a comprehensive proposal that emphasizes the organic fit of the product within the content, as well as the value and advantages it offers.

Recently, a webinar hosted by We Make Movies offered valuable insights into the product placement landscape. Co-hosted by Marcus J Freed, Founder of the Jewish Filmmakers Network, the webinar shed light on the significant barrier of funding faced by independent filmmakers. The webinar was so successful that they are doing another one on Wednesday, October 18 at 6:30 pm PT / 9:30 pm ET. Those interested in participating can register here.

The importance of indie movies

During the webinar, Freed highlighted the increasing importance of indie movies, particularly in the wake of the SAG-AFTRA strike. The workshop aimed to foster a sense of unity among indie brands and teams, emphasizing mutual support during this period of substantial union movement.

In the realm of product placement companies, a roster of notable players is making remarkable strides in paving opportunities for brands within the film and television industry.

Wendy Cohen, President of Production Resources, stands as a gatekeeper of seamless integration. Cohen’s expertise lies in identifying the ideal product fit for various scripts and weaving brands into the narrative fabric. With over two decades of experience, Production Resources offers comprehensive support for clearance and product placement needs. Regardless of whether it’s a high-octane blockbuster or an intimate indie production, they possess the know-how to creatively align brands with the cinematic vision. Their meticulous attention to detail ensures that product placements seamlessly enhance the storyline, without detracting from the viewing experience. Collaborating with companies globally, Production Resources aims to find the perfect fit for every brand’s requirements.

Fee-free product placement

Jon Holtzman, President of Eclipse Worldwide, is a visionary specializing in the integration of cutting-edge products into the world of Film & TV. Eclipse Worldwide is at the forefront of organic and fee-free product integration, a rarity in the industry. Working with them entails no payment of fees to productions, agencies, actors, or studios. Their impressive track record includes placing over 170,000 products in more than 30,000 episodes, generating a cumulative value exceeding 10 billion dollars and reaching an extensive viewership of over 100 billion. 

Holtzman’s background as a former Apple Executive uniquely positions Eclipse Worldwide to understand clients’ branding, marketing, and demographic needs. The agency’s showroom, nestled in the heart of Hollywood Studios, offers a platform for hands-on demonstrations and discussions. They have cultivated a distinct clientele representing offerings with exceptional designs, functions, capabilities, or an overall coolness factor. This exclusivity aligns with their mission to champion unique products and provide a nuanced perspective, distinct from their Hollywood-evolved competitors. Holtzman’s targeted marketing efforts focus on over 2,000 set directors and prop masters, tapping into a niche viewership segment that aligns with their clients’ products.

Jessica Cohen, Founder at The Product Agent, boasts over two decades of on-set experience working with prominent industry figures. Cohen’s network offers access to over 400 active productions spanning the globe, connecting brands with opportunities to seamlessly integrate products into diverse projects. The Product Agent’s approach centers on the recognition that only a fraction (5%) of product placements involve monetary compensation. The remaining 95% are naturally placed by production crews in need of relevant products. This perspective drives The Product Agent’s mission to facilitate organic placements, positioning them as a valuable resource for established and emerging brands seeking to engage with productions. Cohen’s platform serves as a conduit for collaboration, aligning brands with the 95% of placements that stem from the natural flow of production.

Mimi Clark, VP of Front Row Media, emphasizes the importance of balance, noting that both affirmative and negative responses are essential in guiding decisions. While opportunities are vital, she emphasizes the need for brands to protect their integrity. Front Row Media engages with a network of studios, production companies, crews, set directors, producers, and prop masters, positioning them as pivotal intermediaries between brands and the entertainment industry.  Clark’s proactive approach includes generating buzz and laying the foundation for brands to leverage in their promotional efforts. This may involve collaborating on promotional materials and aligning with strategic marketing campaigns to amplify exposure.

Strategies for product placement success

According to Jessica Cohen, organic product placement carries distinct strategies for success:

  • Brands must recognize that organic placement requires an investment of both time and resources.
  • Getting products physically present on set facilitates familiarity and increases the likelihood of natural integration.
  • Establishing awareness of products ahead of their on-screen appearance is pivotal.
  • Despite production uncertainty, providing an ample supply of products enhances the prospects of multiple stakeholders recognizing and utilizing them.
  • Patience is an essential virtue in the realm of organic placement, as results often unfold over time.

Her approach is very comprehensive.  She continues, “If you are not paying huge fees, it is also essential to diversify strategies for product integration, expanding beyond engagement solely with writers.”

Behind the scenes of film and TV production, a range of specialized departments plays integral roles:

  • Art department: Responsible for setting the visual tone, with roles including production designers and set decorators.
  • Prop masters: Responsible for reading scripts to determine and seek out every item that an actor touches or interacts with; for example when the actor makes a cup of coffee, pours a bottle of wine, or answers a cell phone call. They are the key to getting placements that show your products being used, versus just being set dressing.
  • Wardrobe department: Overseeing costumes and clothing worn by the cast, the wardrobe department includes costume designers, assistant designers, tailors, and seamstresses.
  • Hair and makeup department: This team manages the appearance of actors through makeup and hair styling. Due to hygiene reasons, products can’t be shared, underscoring the importance of providing an ample supply.
  • Creative team: While composed of writers, producers, and directors, the creative team constitutes only a small portion (5%) of production, with other departments accounting for the majority.

Encouraging cross-pollination among these departments is recommended, as it maximizes opportunities for product visibility. Given the fast-paced nature of the industry, agility is vital to keep pace with its momentum.

Effective product placement hinges on a delicate equilibrium between product promotion and narrative integrity. The placement must seamlessly merge with the storyline, offering value to the viewer’s experience. A well-crafted proposal, a deep comprehension of the production’s requirements, and a collaborative mindset are indispensable components in achieving success in this dynamic and ever-evolving realm.

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