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Supporting the Creative Vision: An FAQ on Product Placement

Product placement empowers producers and creatives by authentically weaving brands into their stories. The entertainment industry is full of successful, long-standing partnerships with iconic stories and brands. Dutch brewing company Heineken makes a splash with its products by featuring them in cinema classics from the James Bond franchise to Austin Powers.

These authentic partnerships also provide essential capital to support the storyteller’s creative vision and get their projects off the ground. Learn how producers and creative department heads tap this valuable resource for their stories, and how BENlab’s technology, data, and deep-rooted relationships support storytellers in bringing their content to life.

What does product placement actually do for a production?

At the start of any production, producers and creative department heads have the daunting task of building a completely new world for the camera. Product placement can establish this fictionalized world by naturally – and seamlessly – weaving products into content, grounding viewers into the story’s reality while also securing brand dollars to help fund production’s needs.

Look at the notable collaboration with Cadillac for Ray Donovan to help launch the new Cadillac CT6 through an alignment with the series lead character, establishing the Cadillac as Ray’s go-to vehicle across multiple seasons. Not only did the partnership drive the series narrative forward, it provided important brand dollars to help production bring their creative vision to life. 

What are the different types of product placement?

Producers and creatives have different options for integrating products into their narrative, including:

  • Story-driven placements: Story-driven placements, also known as a story-driven integration, can define a character or even help drive the story forward, like in Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s film, Home Again. Reese Witherspoon’s character Alice Kinney starts her own interior design company and uses WIX to build her website and launch her business. The Wix integration helped establish Alice’s character and show her personal journey throughout the film. 
  • Prop placements: This is when productions use a brand’s products as props, such as a physical product. Brands with different types of packaged goods, fashion, or electronics are often well-suited for prop placement. When Netflix’s Gente-fied featured the iconic scene with Hot Cheetos being eaten with chopsticks, it brought authenticity to the scene and relatability to the character enjoying her tasty snack. 
  • Branded content: Typically included in daytime or late-night series, branded content does wonders for brands with time-sensitive messages by allowing them to educate their consumers with deeper messaging. An excellent example of branded content is Jimmy Kimmel Live! filming live from Las Vegas for a week and featuring popular brands like Chime, Caesars Entertainment, and even the city of Las Vegas itself. 
  • Virtual placements: Virtual product placement uses cutting-edge technology to insert brands on a product, logo, or billboard into content in post-production. Post producers and executives ensure that these placements work for the storyline and brand so the placement enhances the viewer’s experience. While virtual placements are quick to implement, they have limited content opportunities, and don’t always remain evergreen.

What are the benefits of product placement to production?

  • Offsetting budgets: Brand dollars can support a production’s bottom line opening funds to support the creative vision (additional shoot dates, securing top-tier talent or the perfect location, and even offsetting VFX or music budgets).  
  • Cleared rights usage: Ensuring the artwork and props feel organic and drive the narrative forward is important, BENlabs works with brands to secure cleared usage rights which can alleviate time and effort for various production teams. 
  • Creating the scene: We know how often locations stand in for something else, whether that’s another city, state, or even country. That’s why it’s imperative to have the right props and brands to transport audiences to different locations or even different time periods. Working with brands through product placement can easily help a prop master or screenwriter to create an authentic moment. For brands that have stood the test of time, sourcing period-correct props can be streamlined and take a load off the prop master’s to-do list.
  • Authenticity: Sourcing and creating fake products takes a lot of time, not to mention a lot of money. Prop masters can use real products to free up budget dollars that they can use elsewhere to build a quality production. And fake products take viewers out of the story whereas real products offer a more immersive experience. 

What are other names for product placement?

Let’s talk about the difference between product placement and brand integration: truth be told, they are essentially the same. In the past, brand integration referred to a paid opportunity, and product placement wasn’t paid. Now, the industry uses them interchangeably. 

Why does production value product placement?

For storytellers, the creative vision always comes first. Product placement aligns with this priority by enabling production partners to add products to their stories and offset hefty production costs. From inflation to supply chain disruptions and more, production partners may often struggle to get projects off the ground. 

With raw materials alone adding 25-30% to a production budget, product placement gives producers that extra financial boost to keep up with soaring costs. And, it helps put that money back on screen, enabling the director’s creative vision, funding more shooting days, coveted locations, or a previously out-of-budget cast member, and more.

What are the advantages of working with BENlabs as an agency partner for product placement?

A well-connected agency partner, such as BENlabs, can make life easier for production. They represent the production to different brands and identify the best partners for product placement based on the project and the brand’s specific goals, in addition to the below benefits. 

  • Ease of use: BENlabs ensures a production’s needs are efficiently and seamlessly attended to. They provide products and education on the technical use of the product. Additionally, BENlabs handles communication with all parties (production and brand) to ensure objectives are clear and the creative vision is achieved. 
  • Time is money: BENlabs understands the importance of timing and how delays can affect a production’s bottom line. Working hand-in-hand with an agency ensures your production needs are addressed in a timely manner to ensure your shoot runs smoothly. 
  • Central point of contact: BENlabs represents a wide Rolodex of brands, creating an efficient one-stop shop to fulfill various creative needs when it comes to product placement. The cherry on top is you’ll work hand-in-hand with one BENlabs point of contact keeping things streamlined and efficient.
  • True Partners: BENlabs understands the complexities and nuances of production and the challenges production partners face every day. BENlabs works to educate brands on how to successfully navigate and integrate their brands into content that would be additive to the content vs disrupting it. Making it a win-win on all sides. As true partners, BENlabs shepherd the process to make it beneficial for both sides.
  • Trusted Partners: BENlabs has exclusive relationships with key organizations in the industry such as the PGA, PMG, British Film Designers Guild, and more!

How does BENlabs help identify the best brand fit for production partners?

BENlabs combines industry experience with deep-rooted relationships to help production partners find opportunities that fit their needs. BENlab’s long-standing connections in the entertainment industry give production partners crucial access to top brands looking for product placement opportunities.

What does the working relationship between production partners and brands look like? 

A successful product placement is authentic to both the production partner’s creative vision and the brand’s essence. When working with BENlabs, production pros can rest easy, knowing that BENlabs discusses the process with brands beforehand. This dialogue helps brands understand how integrations work when it comes to integrating their products into a story.

In order for production partners and brands to navigate this successfully, guardrails are provided by the brand but it’s important that the storytellers themselves are the ones that bring the moment to life in their own voice and decide what feels the most authentic to their story. That way, an integration will successfully support the storyteller’s vision and meet the brand’s specific goals. 

Do production partners have to seek input from brands on actor preferences?

BENlabs discourages brands from seeking out specific productions or actors. Instead, they advise them to target stories that align with their campaign goals and cast a wide net to find the best fit. This process works well as it allows production partners to work with brands that are a match for their stories. 

Does BENlabs work on projects with no film distribution?  

Yes, we do.  With the content landscape the way it is, there are more and more projects that secure distribution later in the process and we have worked on a number of projects in this way.

At what stage of the production should productions start discussing product placement? 

When integrating products into a story, production partners can often require fast turn around to ensure production’s timelines are not impacted. However, producers and creatives should understand that the earlier they can connect with BENlabs, the better. Ideally, once there is a start date, or pre-production has begun, it’s time to start discussing the project, sharing the script, and exploring product placement opportunities. 

What is BENlabs’s fee for exploring product placement? 

Nothing BENlabs’s fee is contracted between the brand and BENlabs exclusively. Whatever product placement fee is identified goes 100% directly to your production.  

What if my production is not able to accept product placement fees?

No problem! BENlabs understands not all productions are able to accept brand dollars towards product placement moments. We can still provide products that support the creative which in turn ultimately offsets budgets in departments such as props, sets, transportation, post-production, etc.

Is this an exclusive relationship or can productions work with other brands or agencies?  

Of course, we are not exclusive to you and your production is welcome to work with any additional agency or brand that is appropriate for your production’s needs. BENlabs is a resource that will bring you potential brand deals from our roster of clients we represent.

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