Automakers have found the gift that keeps on giving: movies and TV.
'A standard movie, not necessarily a blockbuster, is seen by well over 80 million North American consumers in all its generations of life,' said Gary Mezzatesta, president of UPP Entertainment Marketing, a product placement agency in Burbank, Calif. 'That number will multiply exponentially based on the success of the movie.'
And a film's run in theaters is only the beginning, said Beth Oliver, vice president of entertainment for General Motors Eventworks, which handles GM's media buying for events.
'It eventually goes onto video, DVD, pay per view, network cable, network TV, hotels, airlines,' she said.
The right place
Most automakers have hired agencies to handle product placement. Two of the last to the plate were Subaru and Lexus.
Subaru in July and Lexus in October hired UPP Entertainment Marketing, which also has handled Buick, Cadillac and Land Rover. Subaru has a goal to be placed in six movies a year, and its vehicles also have been seen on TV. 'UPP supplies a breakdown of who's watching the TV shows,' said Geoff Bado, advertising specialist at Subaru. That's why the automaker in November turned to 'Judging Amy' on CBS to reach its target of women ages 18 to 34 for the Outback.
'They get to borrow the car,' Bado said. 'To get onto TV, it's illegal to pay.' And that's how Subaru gets TV exposure. 'We don't do any network TV advertising,' he said.
All placement agencies review movie scripts before they commit vehicles. Because they generally are only lending vehicles, however, agencies don't get control of how the vehicles are portrayed.
'You get that control only through payment for a more specific marketing promotion,' said Simon Sproule, Jaguar's vice president of public affairs.
Showcase Placements Inc., a global product placement agency in Burbank, Calif., handles all Ford Motor Co.'s brands, including Jaguar.
Most recently, a Jaguar was placed in Pay it Forward with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.
'The movie is all about someone doing a good deed and that being passed on, and someone gives a gift of a Jaguar S-Type,' Sproule said. This is the kind of association the brand wants, of course.
Jaguar even looks beyond movies and TV shows.
'The other side of product placement is music videos,' Sproule said. 'Can it be successful? You bet.'
That's why Jaguar used Sting's 'Desert Rose' video as part of its marketing effort last year.