Sunday, August 14, 2011

Product Placement - Case Study (Heinz Ez Squeeze)

In some ways product placement for our indie films is trivial.  For example, set designer Margaret McDonald was telling me recently how she gets Woolwooths to supply free groceries for set dressing.

However, real product integration is something that provides the producer with real value - either with money upfront or marketing support later on.  As much as we'd like to save $50 on set dressing - for a $10 million film it's not exactly value for the producer.  So I thought I'd look at some examples of successful product integrations to see how others do it.

Example 1 - Heinz 'EZ Squeeze' bottle.

Marketing Brief:  Heinz Ketchup had a new 'EZ Squeeze' bottle.

They'd worked for years to get people to recognise their old bottle - now they were taking a totally different product to the market.  Not only that - but the bottle was used quite differently too .. so would the public accept this new shape?


So Heinz worked with a US company called 'International Promotion' to include the new bottle into product integration on TV and film so that the consumer 'would consider the EZ Squeeze bottle as an everyday household product'.


That was the marketing brief - let's look at the outcome.  This is an example where the product placement company worked with the writers to get the EZ Squeeze bottle into a Scrubs episode :

video


The product placement company considers the campaign a huge success - giving a Heinz a CPM rate of $0.02 for the TV part of the campaign.

However there's a couple of questions about the campaign that bothers me.  For a start - the product brief was clear - the aim of the placement was to show the new 'EZ Squeeze' bottle being used .  And it wasn't.  Whatever you say about the strengths of that sequence - it was definitely an old-style bottle rather than the new EZ Squeeze style.

Not only that .. but it looks to the untutored eye like even though Heinz paid good money to be placed in the scene - their brand wasn't actually used.  Sure - it looks fairly similar to the old Heinz bottle but with one big difference - the brand name is wrong.  Don't believe me?  Look at the close up:


Given the very clear marketing brief - was this really a success for the product placement ?  And could this kind of placement have problems with advertising rules in various countries?

For example - later in that Scrubs episode a character (Eliot) smokes a pipe.

Imagine that a product placement company claimed credit for Eliot using the tobacco product in the episode.  Would that mean that in Australia Channel 9 would be breaking the 'No advertising of Tobacco on TV' laws if they chose to show that episode?

Is that the reason that the writers work closely with the product placement companies in one sense - and then pull back from showing the exact product being promoted?  Or was it just a mistake?

I don't know the answer to that.

What I learned:
  • When a product placement company talks about how successful they've been meeting previous marketing briefs ... it is worth checking up on how it really went.  It might not be exactly how they've described it.
  • On television you can throw a spinning ketchup bottle across the room without putting the cap back on - and it doesn't make a mess.
More examples to come.

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