Product placement has become a common tactic for marketers seeking to integrate their products into the storyline of a TV show or movie. And while it often involves payment, there are several situations where unpaid product placement is possible. Similar to other media outreach efforts, it requires research and building strong relationships.
“Call the producers; root around until you find the right person,” advises Jessica Tolliver, senior media relations manager with Carmichael Lynch Spong.
CLS client Lutron, a lighting controls manufacturer, appeared on episodes of HGTV's Divine Design last season, and is slated to appear in the upcoming season. It is an unpaid placement.
Host Candice Olson “often talks about lighting in a space to create comfort [and] ambience,” Tolliver says. This made the show a fit for the brand.
When that synergy exists, show creators are more open to product placement. A good pitch pinpoints these opportunities and incorporates the nuances of the show, she explains.
SK Communications will often research a production company's requirements, and then “present them an array of possible client products,” says Greg Sherry, firm president. One suggestion is to follow up the pitch by sending a catalog.
Making sure the product or brand is on-camera in an impactful way is also important. SK client Wenger, a maker of Swiss army knives, watches, luggage, and other gear, has appeared numerous times on the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
“[If] two or three of the stars are wearing Wenger watches week in and week out, we have a level of frequent exposure,” he notes.
M&Ms achieved a placement for its personalized product on The Office with help from Aim Productions, which facilitates product placement. The placement, during an episode where characters were hosting a baby shower, aligned with the brand's focus on baby announcements, says Ryan Bowling, PR manager at Mars Snackfood US.
PR pros, though, must be willing to cede some control so the brand becomes an organic part of the show.
“[For M&Ms, it was not only] being a part of the baby shower, but being part of the humor of The Office,” notes Bowling.
Your research to be certain that there is a synergy between the client, its product, and the show
Establish good relationships with writers, producers, and others involved in the broadcast industry
Jump at every chance to be in a show. An appearance with a negative context could damage the client and its brand
Expect to have input on the script