How to leverage Hollywood: Product integration

In my last post, I discussed event sponsorship as one tactic for playing in the branded entertainment space. In this post, I will examine the role of media buying and product integration.

In my last post, I discussed event sponsorship as one tactic for playing in the branded entertainment space. In this post, I will examine the role of media buying and product integration, or more simply put, product placement.

While aligning a consumer brand with a brand-right sponsorship tends to be subjective, product placement allows for both qualitative and quantitative considerations.

Traditionally, product placement has been media buying territory. Just as marketers have discussed PR's role in social media, today's hot topic is PR's involvement in media buying. As brands seek out opportunities to generate content for an increasing number of platforms and in more sophisticated ways, communications professionals have begun to make their move into this essential marketing practice and are considering it as both a compliment or alternative to traditional earned media.

It is easy to understand the allure of this controlled tactic – the result is a confirmed media booking with a brand appropriate outlet or property, influence over the integration and messaging, and a built in audience. Choosing the right property for an integration allows brands to target a niche audience and build brand awareness around key time periods such as new product or campaign launches. Additionally, there is the added value of the association the viewer makes between the brand, the entertainment property and the talent attached to that property. There are also additional opportunities for brands to further leverage the association with cross-promotion, licensing deals, and spokesperson opportunities.

After a small dip in 2009, the marketing dollars allocated to product placement are on the rise. In April 2013, PQ Media reported that global product placement spending increased 11.7% to $8.25 billion in 2012. PQ Media COO Patrick Quinn said, “Global brands continue to expand their investments in a media tactic that has been around for over 100 years. Marketers are compelled to spend their money on the most effective way to engage more elusive, multitasking audiences.”

With the increasing use of DVRs, smart phones, and tablets by consumers, it has become increasingly difficult to captivate an audience with traditional TV advertising. As a result, the PR industry has started to make the brand a part of the storyline within a number of media properties. Strategically, this allows for brands to interact with their target demographic in a more authentic way — ideally on an emotional level. And who better than communication professionals to craft and tell the brand story? It's storytelling that allows them to approach product integration from a different perspective. They are not simply purchasing a media spot, but are purchasing a guaranteed media placement and working with producers, like they would with any earned media, to generate a brand story inclusive of key messaging.

As it has become more commonplace for PR practitioners to purchase media, Hunter Public Relations' entertainment department has noticed increased interest from our own clients to consider this type of branded entertainment tactic. We've had the opportunity to facilitate integrated partnerships across several networks and cable networks including ABC, CBS Brand Studio, NBC, Bravo, and Scripps. Integrated content allowed each brand to launch, support, or amplify its overall campaign. While the spots were bought as paid media, they were developed as earned media.

In my next post, I will discuss how celebrity spokespeople can be leveraged and optimized in the branded entertainment space.

Samantha Turtle is a senior entertainment specialist at Hunter Public Relations.

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