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Big Break Is it time for your product to stop playing supporting roles and steal the show?

By Peter Kooiman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Product placement in TV shows and movies is nothing new, but thelatest marketing trend-product integration-goes beyond displaying acan of Miller Lite in the background of a scene. Now products areactually part of the script. Consider the movie Cast Away,where the main character's job as a FedEx exec is essential tothe plot (as are a logo-bearing FedEx plane and envelopes). On TV,The Drew Carey Show transported Drew and company inside the videogame SimCity, and the Survivor II cast competed for a box ofgoodies marked with the Target bull's-eye.

"Marketers are running out of ways to sell theirproducts," says Ritchie Lucas, president of CreatAbility, aMiami-based PR and marketing firm. "First we had celebrityendorsements, then product placement, and now marketers arerealizing that the payoff isn't in the consumer just seeingit-the payoff is seeing someone actually using it. You haveopportunities to be associated with movies that get heavy promotionand stars like Tom Hanks. But you're also able to be anintegral part of the story."

So far, integration has been the province of big companies withhuge marketing budgets, but Lucas believes that will change."I don't think it's going to excludeentrepreneurs," he says. "If you can come up with a usefor your product in the show, studios are going to listen. Theyneed to subsidize their salaries and production costs. It's aperfect marriage. You're going to have marketers trying to haveentire shows written around their products."

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