The upcoming James Bond film Skyfall is a marketing juggernaut for its tie-in partners as well as for the products that will actually appear in the film. These placed products include Coke Zero, Sony, Caterpillar, gunmaker Walther and, of course, most famously, Heineken. Even Turkey and China are associating with 007.
One of the firms responsible for some of Skyfall's product placement is Seesaw Media. Brandchannel spoke with Seesaw Media Founder and Director Darryl Collis about the hullaballoo over the product placement in Skyfall as well as how all of the negative media might impact future product placement deals.
Founded in London in 2001, Seesaw Media has, in the last 12 months alone, guided its clients' brands into some of the world's biggest onscreen hits, including The Iron Lady, Midnight In Paris, The Dark Knight Rises, Taken 2, Twilight, Looper and The Bourne Legacy.
For Skyfall — the most product placement focused film of the year — Seesaw Media placed outerwear by iconic British luxury fashion brand Belstaff onto the shoulders of villain Silva (played by Javier Bardem) and Bond's "butt-kicking MI6 colleague" Eve (Naomie Harris).
Brandchannel: Skyfall "product placement" has received nearly as much attention as the film's plot. Is that deserved?
Darryl Collis: Ever since James Bond made reference to Dom Perignon in Dr. No 50 years ago, audiences have been keen to know what he drinks, the car he drives, the watch he wears — and brands have been quick to capitalise on that. It is inevitable when one talks about Bond they talk about product placement and for some, there is a worry that it goes too far. In Skyfall, I think audiences will be pleasantly surprised as the actual placements are done in a subtle, natural way and doesn’t detract from the plot. Brand partners will be happy too because this is when product placement is most effective.
Brandchannel: After Bond "Omega" and BMW and Ford examples, what sensitivities did Seesaw Media consider when working on Skyfall?
Collis: We always treat each film separately and whatever the project, whether it’s a blockbuster like Bond or The Iron Lady we are mindful that our client’s inclusion is in keeping with the character and the script. The Bond franchise is the closest a brand can get to a guaranteed box office global hit and something our clients are always keen to be involved with. Plus, when you take into account Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, Javier Bardem, Dame Judy Dench and Daniel Craig, it is an opportunity not to be missed, regardless of whether it’s Bond or not.
Brandchannel: Is there a point with a film's product placement where too many partner brands tip the balance and begin to echo poorly on one another? For example, would Heineken's presence not be such a big deal in Skyfall if the film also did not have Coke Zero, Honda, etc?
Collis: Naturally, the fewer the brands that partner with a movie and use the association, the more exclusive the partnership feels. This does however limit the potential reach for the distributor, which is why they like to open the opportunities up to as many categories as possible. Regardless of the other brand partners, the main reason Heineken is receiving so much attention and the presence is such ‘a big deal’ is the supposed budget they committed for being a promotional partner and the subsequent controversy that Bond is trading in his signature martini "shaken, not stirred" to the highest bidder, which actually when you see the film is not the case.
Brandchannel: Belstaff appears in Skyfall, but it's everywhere, also appearing in 2012 hit Taken 2 and The Dark Knight Rises, not to mention the new Bourne film and soon, the new Twilight film. Is there an overexposure point for this iconic Brit brand?
Collis: We only looked to secure exposure with high profile, international films with relevant characters. It just so happens that there were more of these films released in 2012 than there has been in past years.
Brandchannel: And how does Seesaw work with filmmakers to assure client brands such as Belstaff secure the "right" roles?
Collis: For all of our clients, we identify films where the characters, cast and story reinforce the brand's positioning, as well as evaluating the commercial or critical appeal. We then work with the relevant department. Whether it’s costume, sets or automotive etc. understanding their needs and the look they want to create plus we only look to provide product for the principle characters
Brandchannel: What categories stand to benefit the most from product placement, and which face the most challenges?
Collis: Due to the sheer size and prominence on screen, cars are naturally the product line that benefits the most. Fashion too, as audiences are very keen to know what people are wearing and replicate the look. Plus if you dress the principle characters, the look can make it on to the marketing material, which will be seen by as many people who see the film, sometimes more. Technology, mobile phones, jewelry, alcohol brands also benefit greatly from product placement and film association. Whatever the brand, the key element of any partnership is to increase their ROI is to activate their placement through PR, marketing, promotion, social media, etc.
Brandchannel: What challenges still face brands looking for measurable ROI from product placement?
Collis: Brands utilise product placement for numerous reasons such as increasing brand awareness (Audi in I-Robot), shifting brand perception (Volvo in Twilight), product launch (Xperia-T in Skyfall) etc. Therefore the definition of ROI and how one measures that differs depending on the brief. Whatever the reason a brand should maximise their ROI by using the placement as a platform to talk about and make their brand culturally relevant.
Brandchannel: What is the biggest challenge to the practice of product placement overall?
Collis: Viewers are more brand aware than ever and notice a bad product placement i.e. a brand that is not in context with the scene or character and where there is undue focus on the product. If a brand is noticed too much that can do more harm than good. Product placement works on a subtle way, which is why it is important for a brand to only get involved once the script is written, where the writer has no commercial interest and is simply referencing products as a plot device. Only then can you identify where brands can be a natural part of the story and fit them accordingly.
Brandchannel: What is your favorite product placement of all time?
Collis: I am showing my age but in terms of organically fitting a character, identifiable as the brand and most importantly having a direct effect on sales one of my favourite placements would be the Ray-Ban Wayfarer in Risky Business. The placement was credited with increasing sales from approximately 18,000 a year, to in excess of 300,000 pairs in 1983 when the film was released.