Maintaining our position as a leading product placement agency requires that we show a lot of respect. In essence, every placement we make serves two entirely separate “bosses.” The word agency is the real clue for determining how we work. An agent, according to Mirriam-Webster is, “A person who does business for another person: a person who acts on behalf of another.” So, we, as an agency, are comprised of people doing exactly that, but instead of acting on behalf of individuals, we act on behalf of brands. But if we only took the desires of the brands into account, we would not have flourished for almost two decades. We have to consider the ongoing, ever-changing needs of literally every production we work with. And those needs can change in a heartbeat.
If we break down the anatomy of a product placement, we reveal an endless cycle of serving and protecting. HERO currently represents sixteen clients. Each of those clients provides us with dozens of placement assets from digital art files to live product. Meanwhile, the agency corresponds with hundreds of scripted TV shows and almost as many films each year. On one side we have brands that have a marketing message that needs to be communicated through their presence on screen and on the other we have productions that need to create appropriate realities while addressing time and budget constraints. As the agent, our job is to respect both parties and act as match maker between the brands and the productions. And this is what we do day in and day out.
As we shared in our previous blog, the right comic book or video game derived sci-fi action figure on a show like The Big Bang Theory can reinforce the loyalty of a game’s following. But a, let’s say, Bratz doll on the same counter would have done little more than confuse. A recent episode of MTV’s Scream Queens featured HERO client Amnesty International’s recruitment booth on a college campus. This makes sense; Amnesty wants to engage college students. But that same booth on say, American Horror Story would have enhanced neither the show nor the client’s public image. HERO client Lyft, the major competitor to Uber, was recently shot for an upcoming episode of Portlandia. This could be considered a match made in heaven; Lyft is a quirky, millennial- associated brand that established its identity with big furry mustaches affixed to the fronts of its passenger vehicles and Portlandia is an irreverent show focused on Portland, OR, a quirky, millennial-associated city.
According to Kerry Segrave’s, Product Placement in Hollywood Films: A History, product placement began with the Reese’s Pieces inclusion in the film ET, in 1982 (we’re certain the practice pre-dates that… smell another blog subject?), so producers and agencies have had plenty of time to adapt to each other’s needs. However, every brand that is seeking a product placement agency has to be educated. It’s the job of a professional product placement agent to not only educate these newcomers to the fray, but to act as a proper match maker between the brand and the productions in which they will appear. Unlike romantic match makers, unions forged by product placement have no version of divorce to fall back on if the match fails. A placement is a placement forever, living in a production as it moves from screen to screen around the world. So, matches must be carefully examined and intelligently executed. Needless to say, this means no Amnesty International for American Horror Story on our watch!