The Optimization of Product Placement

For some, we’re entering “a golden age of TV product placement” (Seth Abramovitch writing in the Globe, describes some of the more recent examples, including an iPad-centric episode of Modern Family).  For others, though, necessity, and not virtue, are the driving forces behind the increasing prevalence of prominently branded products appearing on your TV and theatre screens – as Stefania Moretti writes in “Canadian TV takes product placement further than Hollywood”,

Cash-strapped Canadian television shows are increasingly integrating brand-name products into their scripts, according to the president of the Writers Guild of Canada.

Moretti’s article nicely covers many of the commercial issues relating to product placement: the increased revenues for producers which can go towards paying for budgeted costs, as well as the attraction for advertisers of having an embedded “ad” which can’t be skipped over by fast-forwarding on your DVR.  The New York Times also recently had a nice piece on product placement, focusing on theatrical releases, and highlighting the economic imperatives which drive the increased use of branded products.  The Times piece also alludes to some of the elements which go into the drafting of contracts for product placements: ensuring a positive and prominent depiction of the brand, and negotiating fess which (for studio films, at least), can range “from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million a film”.

The increased use of product placement has, however, led to some concerns about its impact on the creative elements of the craft of film and TV production.  Though a judicious use of product placement can be beneficial for everyone involved (not least because the revenues it brings in or discounts it generates can ensure that a project gets made), over-reliance might jeopardize creativity (or at least result in self-censorship for fear of being less palatable to potential advertisers) – hence the Writers Guild of Canada is organizing a meeting for later in April to discuss the matter.

Bob Tarantino

About Bob Tarantino

Bob Tarantino is Counsel at Dentons Canada LLP and focuses his practice on the interface between the entertainment industries and intellectual property law, with an emphasis on film and television production, financing, licensing, distribution, and IP acquisition and protection. His clients range from artists and independent producers to Canadian distributors and foreign studios and financiers at every stage of the creative process, from development to delivery and exploitation.

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