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Movie Product Placement: Terms Brands and Productions Need to Know

Movie product placement has come a long way. In fact, movie product placement is only part of the story. Today, brands and artists are working together to place products in film, streaming TV, linear TV, music videos, and much more. 

But why? 

The simple answer is money but it’s much deeper than that. 

The type of vehicle a character drives, their clothes, the technology they use, their favorite alcoholic beverage or soft drink, etc. tell us a lot about that character. Prop masters are always looking for the right products to help tell the story, and movie product placement — whether paid, in-kind or any of the other movie product placement terms we’ll demystify in a moment. 

In short, when done well product placement enhances—it doesn’t compromise—the production. For independent filmmakers, movie product placement can help fund production, ensuring the art gets made. For big box office films, product placement is also a way to offset production costs and can include product tie-ins. For music artists, the right product placement can not only offset costs but artists and products both can enjoy a reciprocal brand halo effect.

But whatever form it takes, movie product placement is the all-encompassing term. When a brand compensates a piece of content with dollars, that’s product placement. When a production puts someone on the task of sourcing and products for its art department team, that’s product placement.

As a category, product placement has changed and matured. The rise of terms, like integration, in-kind/trade-out, and “promo materials” may sound like different concepts but they’re not. Product placement is the umbrella term, and these are just different approaches to the same basic thing.


A product integration is a brand placement that is supported with dollars, also known as a “fee deal.” 

These are placements that are typically involve the brand collaborating with the production to either lock in a scripted moment or craft a moment all together.

While good movie product placement always honors the sanctity of the production, product integrations come with more direction as to how the product should be featured on screen from both the brand and the studio or production company. 

Integration deals incorporate guarantees known as deliverables to ensure the product is featured appropriately and in accordance with the brand guidelines so that the production company or studio can be paid for integrating the brand. Ultimately, the idea of integration is the same as product placement, which is to feature a brand within content, but utilizing the term “product integration” is a way to distinguish a paid movie product placement from a non-paid placement.


These two terms, as well as barter, can also be synonymous with “traditional product placement” as they deal with working with productions to fulfill product needs in accordance with the script or vision. 

The benefit of in-kind movie product placement for productions is that it offsets the cost of either creating, renting, purchasing or otherwise procuring the product in question. Similarly, trade-out and barter are agreements made between the production and the brand with the hope—not guarantee—that the product in question will make the final cut. The benefit of this type of movie product placement for brands is that they’re much cheaper and simpler arrangements relative to product integration.

These agreements typically do not contain deliverables because the brand is not paying money to incentivize the production to feature said product. The other added benefit is that these agreements then clear the product for usage on screen as the brand or agency provides the cleared product that is intended for on-screen use. 


Alternatively known by the shorthand “promo,” promotional material is a term coined to bridge the gap by productions between product placement and product needs. Similar to the idea of in-kind products, this category of movie product placement usually involves brands sending products freely to try and be placed in content. 

However, it is a way for production teams to distinguish which of their items are cleared by a brand for usage or are items they have purchased or crafted. In the past few decades, some productions have moved away from the idea of “free promo” because studios may have regulations for their productions accepting free product and using it without clearance. Therefore, in-kind, trade-out, and barter agreements are the favorable route to cover all included parties’ legal bases. 

The brand and production community have strayed from saying promotional material in favor of product placement because “promo” carries a sense of free product usage that neither production companies nor brands prioritize. The current landscape demands strategy and guidelines that should be respected by all parties involved in creating product placement.


Both the production community and the brand community have crafted numerous terms to differentiate and specify what it means for a brand to be featured in content. Product integrations are strategic deals with a dollar incentive to craft an opportunity for a brand that’s either scripted or not. The decades-long relationship between brands and the production community is showcased with the idea of in-kind product, or trade-out and barter, where brands work with production teams to offset their costs. As for “promotional materials”, brands have moved away from simply sending product in favor of being involved with the process of product placement. As brands and production move forward together, new terms may develop, but it’s important to remember that it’s all for the sole purpose to place products in content aka product placement.

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