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People flip channels during the break...but what if your product were on the <i>show</i>?

If you remember the brands in Jerry Seinfeld's cereal collection or recall that E.T. had a thing for Reeses Pieces, you've seen the work of product placement firms. By reviewing scripts and meeting with set designers and prop masters, these well-connected reps have the ability to score your product front-and-center time in popular TV shows and movies. According to P.J. Westcott, a partner in Rave Reviews, a product placement firm in Sherman Oaks, California, the main difference between product placement and advertising is credibility.

"There's an implied third-party endorsement when a product appears with a celebrity," Westcott explains. "When Jennifer Aniston picks up a bottle of apple juice on Friends, people don't think it's there because a prop person put it there. They think it's there because Jennifer likes that kind of apple juice. And if you want to be like her, you're going to want that kind of apple juice, too."

After Westcott gets her clients' products on high-profile shows like Will and Grace or Friends, she advises them to make the most of that exposure via trade-show appearances, in-house marketing materials, media relations and licensing agreements. (Think 007 and BMW.)

Westcott's firm works with both big-name brands and small businesses. Annual retainers at firms like hers start at $5,000 for three product placements, and can go up to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on an assignment's complexity.

Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey. She is currently completing a marketing workbook titled Promote Your Business. E-mail her at

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