From 1984: Futuristic Film Product Placement

From 1984: Futuristic Film Product Placement
Reprinted With Permission From The Dec. 3, 1984 Issue of “Advertising Age.” © Crain Communications.
            “The experience of Pan Am….First around the world and beyond. So if your business takes you out of this world, enjoy the speed and comfort of a Pan Am space clipper with convenient non-stops to the moon and all the major space stations. At Pan Am, the sky is no longer the limit.”
By Robert Marich


            Movie audiences undoubtedly will get a chuckle from the preceding voiceover of a tv commercials seen in “2010,” the MGM/UA Entertainment space epic that is opening Dec. 7.

            The rendition of a Pan American World Airways commercial 26 years in the future represents a new twist in the old business of placing brand-name products in films. Once an unsophisticated endeavor involving little more than giving movie companies free products or services, product placement has become a competitive business that has emerged as a marketing tool for movie studios.
             “2010” is a case of how product placements in movies are becoming a springboard for joint promotions used to market films:
+ Pan Am and Sheraton Hotels, which also has futuristic tv commercial in the same “2010” scene, are providing prizes – transportation and lodging – for radio promotions offering winners free trips to the film’s premiere.
+ Apple Computer has a radio and dealer promotion tied to the movie.
+ Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser beer is distributing posters on college campuses and buying some national print ads tied to the film.
+ “Omni” magazine has published exclusive photos from the films as a cover story in its December issue as part of its placement deal.
       “The business is changing because now the studios are getting involved directly,” said Donna Estes, vp-sales/promotions at International Film Promotions, a South Pasadena, Cal.-based production placement company that handled the “Omni” magazine placement. Product marketers “are getting specific guarantees of exposure now. It’s no longer a hit-or-miss situation with the producers or prop masters,” in which scenes with products may end up on the cutting-room floor.
      Most studios have some type of in-house product-placement or merchandising department. Coca-Cola Co., which owns Columbia Pictures, seldom misses a chance to put its beverages in Columbia  films.
       But the key players are the approximately 30 independent product-placement companies in Hollywood that act as go-betweens for marketers at fees ranging from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
      The largest and oldest is Associated Film Promotions, a Los Angeles-based company with a diverse client list that includes Anheuser-Busch, Nikon, Amana Refrigeration and Dunkin’ Donuts of America. Robert Kovoloff, president/founder of Associated Film Promotions, said he’s particular that products are seen in a favorable light.
      This attention to environment led him to pass on the opportunity to place Switzer Clark’s Milk Duds in a key scene of “E.T., the Extraterrestrial,” the all-time box office champ. “In the script we saw, we thought [the extraterrestrial character who becomes ill at one point] would be unappetizing,” said Mr. Kovoloff. Instead, the producer used Reese’s Pieces, the Hershey Chocolate Co. candy that saw sales soar because of the plug.
      Others are less finicky. Sports-wear marketer Nike Inc. has a reputation for being particularly generous with its products. For example, a despicable gym instructor in MGM/UA Entertainment’s “Teachers” wears a shirt with the Nike logo when he confesses to having sex with a student. A Nike spokesman declined to discuss the Beaverton  
, Ore.-based company’s product-placement activities.
       Orion Pictures’ “Terminator” is a case of how a villain using branded products can spur sales. The human-like killer robot in the film (Arnold Schwarzenegger) ears Gargoyles-brand sunglasses placed by Associated Film Promotions. “We’re opening lots of new accounts as a result of that movie,” said Russell Remington, marketing director of the small Bellevue, Wash.-based company.
      International Film Promotions has a deal placing a candy company that it won’t identify in “Goonies,” an upcoming Warner Bros. Pictures release being produced by Steven Spielberg, director of “E.T.” “The candy will very much be a focal point of the film’s story,” said Carol Hilson, vp-production at IFP. For their part, filmmakers get recognizable brand-name products as props to create an aura of realism in movies.
       “When the exposure looks like it’s a commercial, then it’s not effective,” said Cynthia Spence, marketing and promotion director at Norm Marshall & Associates, North Hollywood, which places American Motors Corp. vehicles in films, tv shows and even tv commercials.
            POSTSCRIPT: Coca-Cola sold Columbia to Sony Corp. in 1989. The product placement partner Pan Am didn’t make it to the space age, collapsing seven years later in 1991. “Omni” magazine folded in 1995.