Product Placement Agent
Ever wonder why James Bond drives an Aston Martin in one film, a BMW in another and an Audi in the next? The answer lies in product placement. Working for a third-party advertising agency, the product placement agent represents corporate clients in an endeavor to secure embedded marketing opportunities for a product in entertainment vehicles like films, television shows, music, video games, and live events.
There are two sides to every product placement or brand integration relationship: the “placer” and the “placee.” At the inception of any product placement initiative, the product placement agent (who functions as a “placer”) is tasked with conducting research into the client product and the intended placement medium. Specifically, the agent compiles data regarding target demographics, consumer purchasing habits, and the lifestyle that is embodied by the client’s brand and mirrored in the entertainment product. The agent, on behalf of the client, is responsible for contacting entertainment companies to pitch a placement of the product into a specific vehicle. The pitch will include a persuasive argument for why the particular product is a smart fit for the production, and how the integration of the brand can positively benefit the entertainment company. Product placement may come in one or more basic forms: visual placement, verbal, and hands-on. The pitch documentation will also include the compiled research data concerning the target audience and consumer market, and an initial compensation proposal. This, of course, is only a jumping-off point for intense negotiation.
Based on the proposal package and a meeting with the product placement agent, the counterpart representing the entertainment company will make a decision on whether or not to continue exploratory negotiations or to pass on the proposal. Concerned parties within the entertainment company will be consulted—for instance, the director and producer of a film. If an agreement is achieved, the contract will specify the details for compensation and myriad other rights or restrictions on how the product is to be used. These details tend to vary widely and will be tailored to each project. What sounds cut-and-dried on paper is actually a delicate dance that may be deliberated on and pitched back and forth for several weeks before reaching a signed deal. In some instances, an entertainment company may have its heart set on using a particular product, and therefore will initiate contact to secure rights. Under these circumstances, the company is seeking a free supply of the product (like an expensive car or a certain designer’s clothing) or a unique level of authenticity through easily recognizable brands.
Skills & Education
The product placement agent must be a cunning negotiator armed with a keen understanding of statistics, marketing practices, and that intangible knack for plugging a brand in an attractive and lucrative manner. A college degree in marketing, public relations, advertising, or a related field is preferred in this career, and coursework should be supplemented with classes in entertainment business and copyright law. Much of your work is about building relationships, so you must be likable and charming. If the “placee” on the other side of the table likes you, the deal is halfway done. Conversely, the business relationship is probably dead if you cannot strike a positive rapport with the decision-maker you are courting.
What to Expect
The truth is that there is no standard practice across the spectrum of the product placement segment of brand marketing and entertainment production. Sometimes a placement agent will call up a friend close to a recording artist or set dresser to sneak a recognizable product onto the radar; other times lawyers are involved from the beginning as one company seeks control over every detail of how their product is treated in a placement. Corporate entities battle to beat out their direct competition and gain exposure through association with high-profile celebrities. Employment opportunities for a product placement agent are available with third-party agencies that represent smaller or newer designers and products. Similar positions exist to represent the entertainment company in brand integration, and as in-house brand representatives of large or well-established corporations.
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