Mind Your Business: Product Placement
Some of these examples resulted in payments to the movie and series, others didn't. Some placements were paid for with marketing, such as when Dole delivered 100 million Dole bananas with Curious George stickers on them.
There are also a number of product placement examples in TV production.
Father of the Pride, the DreamWorks animated series for NBC, featured a known casino and Sprite.
Sneaker company Sketchers is in production on a series with Moonscoop to produce Zevo-3, loosely based on their line of shoes.
Anime series Code Geass featured Pizza Hut product placements.
Fox's American Dad had a scene which took place in a Burger King.
Anime series Cowboy Bebop featured Salem cigarettes (ewww!).
Joe Murray, creator of Rocko's Modern Life, was producing at Cartoon Network when the network proposed having all their series do an episode that could link up back-to-back and make one story. "It was going to be sponsored by Kelloggs," Murrays said." And then they dropped out, and another sponsor came in. But it became so ridiculous and we all fought it so much, the network dropped it."
One of the most famous recent product placement/integration disasters (for one of the promoters) was last years' Family Guy variety show. Originally Microsoft was supposed to sponsor the entire show. Evidently no one from Microsoft has ever seen the show because they pulled out when they saw the incest and holocaust jokes during a rehearsal. The movie Sherlock Holmes stepped in to replace Microsoft as the sponsor.
There may also be legal reasons behind a product placement decision.
I asked executive Birk Rawling at Nickelodeon about any potential product placement at the network. He replied, "Due to federal regulations/laws, we avoid paid product placement in all of our children's programming."
That was also the case when I was designing live-action shows at Nickelodeon.
There is another issue to keep in mind if you are producing an animated show for kids. In October of 2009, Ofcom in the UK, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, warned all children's TV producers that as of December 2009, no product placement will be allowed in any programs aimed at kids under 16, including those programs imported from the US.
If you have a project which you think might be able to include product placement or integration, your first step will be to approach a specialist company. They will analyze your script and then discussions start with producers to see what products might fit.
Some placement/integration companies are:
Brand in Entertainment – www.brand-inentertainment.com
Creative Entertainment Services – www.acreativegroup.com
Eclipse Worldwide – www.eclipse-worldwide.com
Hollywood Branded – www.hollywoodbranded.com
Hollywood Product Placement – www.hollywoodproductplacement.com
With the prevalence of reality programming these days and how often they make use of real products and real commerce outlets, we're much more used to seeing name brands without it being distracting.
It comes down to this: If you have a joke about a product and you have a choice of making up a fake product or using a real product while adding to your budget, as long as it doesn't hurt the movie, use the product placement (in limited portions).
Mark Simon (have a Coke and a smile) is an award-winning animation director/producer. His animation is online at www.FunnyToons.tv. He is also the co-founder of www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com. He has pitched and landed over 25 deals for his own projects. He is currently turning the hit comic strips B.C. and Wizard of Id into animated properties (both of which take place before 1800, so …)