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4 Reasons Why Product Placement Can Be Good for Indie Film

4 Reasons Why Product Placement Can Be Good for Indie Film

The monstrous box office intake of “Jurassic World” was truly remarkable, a record opening weekend grossing over half a billion dollars worldwide. But even before the film was released, it had earned money via corporate sponsorship. The film boasted a large number of product placements from powerful worldwide brands including Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Hilton Hotels, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. In fact, at times, “Jurassic World” felt more like an advertisement than a movie, with The Hollywood Reporter noting that the film “has almost as many brand tie-ins in it as it does new dinosaurs.”

READ MORE: Why ‘Jurassic World is Such a Huge Disappointment

Sponsorship of this sort may be tiresome for viewers, but it’s very lucrative for film producers. For instance, Warner Bros. “Man of Steel” raked in $170 million from corporate partnership alone, according to THR. However, from speaking with numerous producers, it became clear that product placement certainly has other benefits, particularly when it comes to independent films. Here are 4 key advantages.

1. It helps the bottom line.

The bigger product placements usually fall in with bigger pictures, where a studio and filmmaker get a good amount of cash for having an actor wear, say, a pair of Nikes, as in “Back to the Future Part 2.” While it may be a cash grab, it certainly helps the bottom line and below-the-line costs.

As Jennifer Bydwell, whose credits include managing product placement for HBO’s “Ballers” and “Ted 2,” told Indiewire, “It helps below-the-line costs [the cost for the crew not including director, actors producers and writers], definitely. It can also give you a basis for a marketing and promotions campaign around the release of the film.” This is the case with “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” which has just rolled out a series of commercials cross-promoting a Tom Cruise-driven BMW and the film itself.

While Indies may not be doing marketing strategies involving BMWs, securing big-brand partnerships could help immensely with tight budgets.

2. Sponsors help with parties and film marketing.

Without the money to flood movie and TV screens with trailers, release events can help create buzz around a film and heighten excitement. Corporate partnerships can greatly help in this realm, whether it’s throwing a party at Sundance or ensuring a high-profile premiere in New York or Los Angeles.

Houston King, a producer on Andrew Bujalski’s gym-centered comedy “Results,” shared with Indiewire that “meaningful assistance from companies during the publicity phase of the film with support at festivals, parties and premieres” can help a film swim rather than sink.

3. Securing a product placement can be easy.

“It’s pretty critical for small indie films to get in-kind donations from vendors, since there just isn’t a lot of money to spend on anything,” Producer Mynette Louie (“Land Ho!”) told Indiewire. “And it’s pretty simple to request the donations, it’s just a matter of writing the vendors a letter and giving them a thank you credit on screen. It’s also advisable to target new brands because they see these donations as a marketing strategy. Even if the products don’t end up on screen, they get exposure to cast and young crew members, who they see as ‘tastemakers.'”
While it may not provide an immediate cash payout anywhere in the realm of what blockbusters see, receiving goods to use on screen or on set can help with overall costs. Louie also mentioned how occasionally these gifts can be kept, as with Apple products, which can then be used on future projects.

4. It creates authenticity.

What better shortcut for developing a character in a visual medium is there than by identifying what brands they use? Using real products helps to build a real world and in turn, a better film. Without them, an unrecognizable society is constructed, which stands apart from today’s culture of nonstop visual assaults from ads and logos.

“A world without logos is great for a certain kind of story, but our actual lives are covered in logos. The products that characters use and the brands they wear can be important signifiers for who they are and where they live. We all pick up those cues about each other all day long — what shoes someone is wearing, what newspapers they’re reading, what brand of organic pizza is in their fridge,” said producer Alicia Van Couvering (“Cop Car”).

King echoed this point, going as far to say that a lack of name products can throw viewers. “I think people are a little desensitized to it… It doesn’t throw them out of the story too much and many times not having the actual known product would,” he said.

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