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Subtle—or more obvious—product placement can be an effective promotional tool, says Canadian branding and fashion lawyer Ashlee Froese.
We live in a branded world. Smart, strategic consumer-facing companies are wise to design ways to ensure that their consumers (real and potential) are engaging with their branded products and services in memorable, persuasive and pervasive ways.
Such engagements do not have to be overt. In fact, sometimes subtle, unobvious methods of consumer engagement are the most effective.
Savvy product placement
The impetus for this article lies in a recent episode of a popular TV show and the strategic way an insurance company influenced the plot line of the episode to focus on the company’s charitable initiative.
Long episode short, the TV show plot line was as follows: the lead male character works in a marketing company and the insurance company is a new client of the marketing company.
The insurance company has created a new charitable initiative and has tasked the marketing company with the creation of a campaign for the charitable initiative. The lead male character then embarks on a personal journey examining his own relationship with charitable donations.
"seamless integration of the branded product or service into the public medium is often as successful as the carefully constructed agreement that is the foundation of the collaboration."
Cut to the first commercial break for the TV show and wouldn’t you know: the first commercial was the insurance company’s actual new charitable campaign, which was the exact same one as featured in the TV show’s plot line. Fascinating!
This product placement marketing campaign seemed to push the envelope.
We’re all used to overt displays of products in TV episodes—in Sex & The City Carrie Bradshaw only ever used an Apple computer, whose logo was prominently displayed.
That was an example of passive product placement. But in this instance, real life and make-believe seamlessly converged into a robust 30-minute reinforcement of the insurance company’s charitable campaign.
Powering the collaboration
Such relationships, between the brand and the medium of influence (TV show, film, music video or even an Instagram celebrity’s social media feed), are carefully negotiated and drafted agreements. Some of the terms that should be considered include:
- What type of IP is being licensed?
- How can the IP be used?
- What are the restrictions? (eg, certain plot lines that the product/service cannot be associated with or other brands that the product/service cannot be displayed with)
- Who has artistic integrity as to how the product/service is integrated?
- Is there an approval process?
- What are the performance requirements? Would a passive logo placement suffice or is the product to be a component in the actual plot line? How many times does the product/service have to be displayed?
- What are the fees associated with the product placement? What are the payment terms?
In addition to these business terms, there are further provisions that should be carefully carved out, negotiated and drafted. These include indemnification, representations and warranties, termination, remedies, governing law, and confidentiality.
Ultimately, seamless integration of the branded product or service into the public medium is often as successful as the carefully constructed agreement that is the foundation of the collaboration.
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Product placement is an investment. Make sure that your demands are accurately and precisely conveyed.
If they aren’t abided by, make sure that you have the appropriate amount of legal teeth to enforce your rights.
Ashlee Froese is a branding and fashion lawyer. She is the founder of Toronto-based boutique branding firm Froese Law. Her scope of practice includes trademarks, copyright, domain name, social media, marketing, advertising, packaging and labelling laws. She can be followed on @froese_law.
product placement, Ashlee Froese, marketing, TV, Sex & The City, Apple, Instagram, IP