Actors have always been popular as brand ambassadors, so it seems only natural that advertising creeps into their area of work-- films.
Product placement in films can range from the subtle to the blatantly obvious, with entire songs being written with a brand name.
M Hemanth Rao, the Bengalurean film director, producer and scriptwriter, says decisions around product placement are taken by producers. “The scriptwriters don’t have a say in the matter,” he says.
The producer takes a call on how the product is featured and how much screen time it receives. “While brands mostly approach producers, there are instances when the producers go to a brand they want to feature,” he explains.
An advertising professional says brands sometimes tie-up with big Bollywood studios. “It’s only if you’re using the brand’s tagline that they can dictate how they’re shown. The amount of money they spend also plays a role,” she says.
The brand may be featured in exchange for products in kind, or office space to shoot in. Brands pay producers an amount ranging anywhere up to Rs 1 crore for a mention.
“I don’t do it, but I know of scriptwriters who write products into their scripts,” says Hemanth Rao.
He only believes in featuring a product if it fits in with the theme and mood of the film. Some advertisers tend to approach a film for placements once the trailer is out so they have an idea of whether the movie fits into the image of the product. Of late, film tie-ups mean actors mention brands at press conferences for the film.
Does it work?
Amutha Manavalam, an expert on the subject, says you are psychologically drawn to a product when you see your favourite stars use it.
While it may not be the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing a product, it creates an awareness about the product.
Citing an example from the Hollywood film Twilight, she says, “There is a scene where the female protagonist is in a dark room using her Macbook and the only light is from the screen and the shining logo. In these cases, the eyes of the viewer are drawn towards the product and they start to consider it one of their choices.”
A representative from Magnolia Bakery, which has been featured in the show ‘Sex and the City’ and the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, says while the products have done well on their own, these features created brand recall.
“The references grabbed eyeballs and created curiosity and made people crave the products. We actually have people walk into the store asking for the same cupcakes that Carrie ate on the show,” she says.
Zoya’s ad factor
An advertising professional Metrolife spoke to says a product was placed in the film Zoya Factor. Unlike earlier films where individual brands tied up with producers, here the production company involved the advertising giant Ogilvy.
“They then brought on board all the brands they worked with on to the film. It worked because the plot revolves around an advertising firm,” she says. “It was ridiculous but brilliant.”