By Emily Woods, Co-Founder of Bellwood Media.
With the UK entering a three month consultation period over the deregulation of product placement on British TV, the burning question for most companies now is whether it should become a strategic part of their own, overall marketing strategy.
Product placement is already used within many mediums of entertainment; mainly film, music and publishing, where it both supports and enhances the creation of content. Recently the Internet has vastly improved these opportunities by providing almost unlimited access to worldwide audiences.
The addition of television to this formidable list means that brands will be able to access content over every platform used by their target audience for interest and leisure. It makes product placement an ever more serious and relevant way of expressing brand sentiments, creating fitting associations and enhancing brand key messages.
In fact, with TV now in the mix for the UK, brands have no boundaries over which platforms they can use to engage with their audiences.
So what are the major considerations for brands considering product placement? Below are some of the key points to consider:
1. Identify the right property on the right platform
To create an effective and successful placement it’s vital to first ensure that the property is not only the right fit for the brand, but that you are also communicating with your audience over the right platform.
We know that the 16-24 demographic experience much of their entertainment over the internet and utilise social media as one of their primary communication tools. If your brand strategy is targeting this demographic, then the chances are that your campaign will be at its most effective if it recognises and encompasses this.
2. Define your message
Product placement is not about getting your product seen as many times in as many properties as possible. If the properties are appropriate then yes, you pretty much know that the people watching are the right fit; but no matter how much exposure your product has the benefits will be at a minimum if the audience remains unaware of your brand values.
It’s essential to work with the Producers/Content Providers to identify an opportunity where the audience will experience your brand in line with clearly defined objectives. Product placement needs to work seamlessly with the storyline and not jar against it. It’s a misconception that product placement corrupts programming.
If it’s done badly, being out of context with the character, scene or plot then yes, it is likely to have an adverse effect. But if the product is carefully integrated into the storyline and treated almost as another character, a brand experience will be created that not only adds value to the programme itself, but also clearly communicates the right brand sentiments to the audience.
3. Negotiating the deal
To do this successfully you need to be in discussions with the programme’s Producers in the early stages of production to ensure enough time to evaluate the script and negotiate the deal.
The best deals are where the placement works for both the Producers and the Brand. The type of content you’re working with will have a major effect on how the deal is put together.
With TV networks desperately looking for new ways to generate revenue streams it’s likely they will try to negotiate fees in return for executing placements. It’s important to note that in this case, no money should exchange hands until the programme is locked and the placement has been activated as per the contract.
Understand your brand assets and be clearly aware of the benefits it can bring to a Producer. Sometimes your building location, car park, fleet of cars, partners or brand ambassadors can hold value that can help secure the placement.
Also look at what other rights you may want over and above inclusion in the content. Is access to the programme’s talent of importance? Do you need to negotiate rights to use footage in your own marketing campaigns? Will you have the right to use the programme’s branding or announce the association in any press activity?
4. Executing the placement
Due to the nature of filming, certain things can happen on set that prevent scenes playing out as expected. Where possible, we would always advise identifying a number of scenes where a brand experience can be created.
This limits the risks of the placement not happening. Similarly, get the placement written into the scene, ensure there is an individual responsible for making the placement happen on set and ask for footage or stills as soon as possible, post filming, to confirm it has happened.
Most of all work with the Producer and Director to ensure they are happy with how the placement is planned. A lot of footage hits the cutting room floor during post production and if the placement appears oddly out of place or is in any way incongruous with its surroundings, it’s less likely to make the final cut.
5. Expanding the association
Don’t always assume that agreeing a fee is the only way to secure a placement. Sometimes content providers can benefit more from gaining access to your touchpoints with consumers: on line, in store, pr, mobiles and print.
Similarly, by extending your brand’s association with the content through other forms of media, the message will reach a far wider audience and deliver a more powerful message. Consider how the placement, or association, with the content can be played out over other platforms and potentially developed further into events, PR, competitions and ongoing marketing and promotional activity.
6. Quantify the value
It’s extremely hard to quantify the value of a placement. Whilst it’s important to look at viewing figures and review them against traditional advertising rate cards, it’s also important to utilise the benefits of social media. There are various tools that allow us to monitor fan sites, blogging, social networking and media sites.
This may not give us definitive knowledge of the exact media value of a placement, but it will give a clear indication of consumer sentiments towards the association. Partner these tools with monitoring sales figures, both on line and in store and you’ll get a clear view on how successful a campaign has been.
7. Finally, learn to have fun with your brand
There are some incredible, inspirational content creators out there who are willing to work with brands to create really exciting brand experiences. Utilise their creativity, embrace breaking out of traditional formats and explore what the creative community can bring to your brand.
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