Interview: Stacy Jones of Hollywood Branded
Hollywood Branded Inc. is a Los Angeles based entertainment marketing agency, founded in 2007 by Stacy Jones. The agency specializes in product placement, celebrity endorsement, branded content, promotions, licensing. Hollywood Branded, the brand division of the agency, creates and executes strategies and business solutions for corporate clients (e.g. Beam Global, BlackBerry, Dearfoams, Gigaset, Philips, popchips and Vita Coco). Productions Branded is the agency’s production division, which is responsible for marketing strategies and brand partnership solutions for entertainment clients.
In the last few years Hollywood Branded effectively arranged several high-profile placements in box-office hits and successful TV shows. Let’s check two case studies.
1. Canadian Club in Mad Men
The fourth season premiere of Mad Man was the first episode that involved Canadian Club whiskey. In the previous episodes Don Draper regularly drank Old Fashioned, his favorite cocktail, while Roger Sterling loved Stolichnaya vodka.
Bottle of Canadian Club was visible in several scenes: in Don’s office while he discussed business with his accountant and while he spoke with Roger; further more we could have seen the bottle in Don’s apartment – on the kitchen counter where his housekeeper is preparing dinner. You can read more about product placement in that episode in the blog post Brand Spotting in Mad Men: Public Relations (S04E01).
Here are the cumulative results of that product placement across the season:
- Overall Placement Value: $495,200
- Audience Reach: 13,755,960
- Overall Audience Retention: 8,671,500
- Positive Feeling from Placement: 933,984
- Influence to Purchase from Viewing: 36,040
2. BlackBerry in Buried
Buried is a 2010 thriller that revolves around Iraq-based American truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), who, after being attacked, finds himself buried alive in a wooden coffin, with only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glow sticks and a mobile phone to help him escape before the oxygen in the coffin runs out.
Hollywood Branded negotiated and secured the BlackBerry integration, providing numerous BlackBerry devices to the production for on screen usage. Also they organized a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival that was sponsored by BlackBerry. BlackBerry was also able to film an exclusive interview with the director Rodrigo Cortés and main star Ryan Reynolds.
Hollywood Branded achieved extensive PR that was based on the sponsored party. The results were verbal mentions, video and pictures in numerous TV, print and digital sources, i.e. E!’s Daily Ten, Entertainment Tonight, eTalk, Radar, EOnline, Today, Toronto Sun Press and others.
BlackBerry manufacturer RIM was apparently very satisfied with product placement. Here’s a testimonial from a RIM employee who commented on the event: “I just saw the premiere last night, and I want to thank you for an awesome job. It was one of those projects that serendipitously came together. Our CEO and his wife also saw the screening with important CEOs and talent in town during our sponsored dinner post party. He was VERY happy with the placement and it looked wonderful.”
To get better insight into the aforementioned collaborations and the future of product placement I’ve conducted an interview with Stacy Jones, president of Hollywood Branded.
You have successfully placed bottles of Canadian Club in the first episode of Mad Men’s fourth season. How did that product placement occur and who was the initiator?
We approached Mad Men on behalf of our client, Beam Global, to explore a cross-episode integration. We worked with both the sets and props department to supply the production with the bottles and boxes appropriate to the period of the series.
We could see the results for Canadian Club product placement. How did you measure the placement and how satisfied were you with the results?
We measure the placement values based on the show’s Nielsen ratings, how many times it re-airs, the network’s ad-buy rate for a 30 second spot, the seconds of on screen exposure, whether there were any verbal mentions, and h
ow recognizable the brand was. We do have a database that generates these numbers with a team of media reviewers that value each placement based on their specialized judgment.
The collaboration was definitely successful. It has somewhat paved the way for Canadian Club and its major integration into “Boardwalk Empire.” We were very happy that the producers decided to establish the brand at the beginning of the show because it almost obligates the creative team of the show to keep the brand present throughout future seasons to not disrupt continuity. We definitely received what we expected. Canadian Club (Beam Global) did not pay for the integration, so the return on investment (ROI) was very positive. We always expect or at least hope for more exposure for our brands but we’ll take what the producers are willing to give us for little to no cost.
You’ve also been responsible for the integration of BlackBerry’s mobile phone in the movie Buried. The movie scene is perfect for mobile phone product placement. What’s the story behind that product placement deal?
The production sent us the script, which we reviewed and determined would be an appropriate opportunity to feature BlackBerry. We supplied over a dozen BlackBerry Curves to the production, which was shooting in Spain.
After production completed, and we were treated to a film screening by Lionsgate, we chose to support the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, as BlackBerry was a major corporate sponsor. At the party, we created a BlackBerry experience complete with step and repeat, BlackBerry essence cocktails and appetizers, and BlackBerry demonstration display. BlackBerry manufacturer RIM was able to bring executives and appropriate clients to the event, and numerous media outlets covered, resulting in coverage across US and Canadian entertainment news and print publications. It was also a bonus that Ryan Reynolds is Canadian – as is BlackBerry.
We’ve seen in recent months that some major stars in the music business included product placement in their videos, e.g. Lady Gaga in Telephone, Black Eyed Peas in The Time (The Dirty Bit), and Britney Spears in Hold It against Me. Why do music stars include product placement in their videos, just to offset the production costs or are there any other reasons?
Product placement in videos does not only offset production costs (a bonus), but also allows the video to obtain cross promotional campaigns with brands, giving the artist exposure a wider audience of consumers and new future fans.
On the other hand we’ve seen dating website PlentyOfFish in several high-profile music videos. Do you think that product placement can be more effective communication channel to reach your target group than let’s say ads on TV or in cinema?
Digital video recorders are in homes across America. It is a proven fact that advertising in TV is on the decline due to technology. Product placement offers a fantastic way to still engage with the viewer, as part of content.
A report from PQ Media (from summer 2010) shows that spending for branded entertainment marketing in the USA in the year 2009 fell by 1.3 percent from 2008. However, spending for branded entertainment declined less than spending for other types of advertising and marketing. What is your opinion on the future of branded entertainment and especially product placement? Will investments in this type of marketing grow? Will it become more important?
Advertising in general has been in decline as our economy has struggled. This has affected branded entertainment as well. Branded entertainment has become part of everyday vernacular, and as it has grown into a more acceptable practice, brands are recognizing that having marketing messages immersed into content that consumers are watching offers – or can offer – more engagement and recall. Product placement will indeed continue to grow, especially as new mediums continue to be explored as alternatives to fragmented audiences in traditional network television.
We could say that product placement is successful if it achieves certain goals that were set in the early stages of the collaboration between some brand and the agency. Which were your most successful product placements or the ones that massively exceeded your expectations?
Our work with BlackBerry has definitely been our most successful amongst placements we secure. The fact that BlackBerry has such a broad audience gives us versatility and reach. It helps that BlackBerry is part of the day-to-day lifestyle at least here in the United States.
Her past work experience includes over ten years as Executive Vice President running operations for one of the founding product placement agencies in the industry, preceded by her role as Director of an entertainment gifting and promotional agency. She has served on the Board of Directors for an online product placement commerce site, SeeIt.WantIt.com. Stacy received her BFA in Theatrical Production from The University of Arizona.
Special thanks go to Michael Maury of Hollywood Branded for his effort and help with the interview. You should follow Hollywood Branded on Twitter, where they provide a lot of quality content.