Coming soon to a screen near you: your favourite car brand

By Candice Krieger, February 21, 2013
Seesaw Media’s Darryl Collis

Seesaw Media’s Darryl Collis

Advertisers, and companies alike, take heed; product placement is set to soar this year. The format - paying for brands to appear on screen – has already been adopted by the film, and more recently, television world, but industry experts predict it will really take off this year.

The trend, which is already quite widespread in films where there have been no opposing laws, has been gaining momentum since it was first allowed on television screens in 2011.

Last year, Nick Price, who chaired the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) working group that lobbied the government to allow product placement in the UK and is head of MPG Media Contacts, said that the product placement market is estimated to worth up to £120 million –- around three per cent of the TV spot - over the next five-to-six years, as reported in Marketing Week. The global market is valued at around $3 billion.

Such figures are likely to be welcomed by Darryl Collis, who runs arguably the most successful product placement agency in the UK.

His company, Seesaw Media, is responsible for securing placements in seven of the number one-ranked movies of 2012, including The Dark Knight Rises, The Twiglight Saga: Breaking Dawn, The Iron Lady and the latest James Bond smash-hit, Skyfall, the highest-grossing film in UK box office history.

Seesaw Media secured product placement for Volvo in ITV’s Midsomer Murders

Seesaw Media secured product placement for Volvo in ITV’s Midsomer Murders

"It is definitely a growing market," says Mr Collis, who co-founded Seesaw Media in 2001.

"We have seen a significant increase in enquiries from people over the past few years, as brands realise the benefits of product placement."

His company has experienced a 60 per cent increase in the past year alone.

He says: "They are turning to product placement to get international exposure. It means brands can do things on an international scale.

"It's a global currency." In 2010, Seesaw achieved a 48 per cent growth increase on the year before, and in 2011, a 65 per cent growth on 2010.

Prior to establishing Seesaw Media, Mr Collis, 38, was working as a copywriter, writing, producing and directing radio commercials but he feared for the future of such work.

He says: "I saw the writing on the wall early on." He researched product placement and realised the long-term appeal.

"There were no laws against product placement in films in the UK, and the British film industry was booming. It was around the time of Love Actually and lots of major US movies were being made at UK studios."

The first television paid-for product placement in the UK took place in 2011 when Nescafe paid £100,000 to have its Dolce Gusto coffee machine placed in ITV's This Morning's kitchen for three months.

Since its inception, Seesaw Media has secured prominent exposure for premium clients in cinema, television and music. They include Belstaff in Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises and television show, House, and Volvo in Midsomer Murders (pictured centre).

How does the process work?

Seesaw Media have a retained client list of brands and the aim is to get exposure for them within films, television and music videos.

It uses its relationship with producers and directors to find out about upcoming films, which can then be matched up with clients.

Deals are either negotiated on a pay-for basis or, more often than not, a free-to-loan prop basis to secure client exposure.

Clients can pay upwards of £50,000 to have their brand appear in a film, depending on the size of the film.

"But clients aren't always paying hard cash," explains Mr Collis.

"What studios are much more interested in is the media value they can bring to it. For instance, Ford/Aston Martin in the Bond movies used to pay millions in advertising and buying media space and the studios use that to help promote the film and that is worth a lot to them. Studios are more interested in a brand committing a big marketing spend to a film as opposed to hard cash.

"Take Belstaff in Skyfall for insance; Our client Belstaff worked with the costume designer to help create two of the looks. Belstaff had to produce the jackets but there was no hard cash given."

What sorts of returns can brands expect? It is hard to put a figure on it, says Mr Collis.

"Volvo used Twilight as a platform to introduce and push their new car model to a younger audience, and after BMW placed its Z3 in Bond movie, Golden Eye, there was a nine-month waiting list for the car, which had previously generated little interest."

Product placement is particularly popular with alcohol brands, clothing makes and automotive and electrical brands.

"Premium brands want to be associated with premium feature films. We specifically target those features that not only appeal to our clients' customers, but we feel will be well-received by the critics.

"It is usually the premium brands for films and television," he explains, "such as Moet in Downton Abbey, and often fast-moving consumer goods in soaps." L'Oreal recently had a tie-in with Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks; Highland Spring Water in ITV entertainment show Dancing on Ice, and Maximuscle in Big Brother UK.

Mr Collis may have had a successful 2012 but he is just as excited about the next 12 months. He is looking ahead to the major movies: the new superman film, Man of Steel; Ron Howard's Rush - the new Formula One movie; Diana, and the new Richard Curtis romantic comedy, About Time.

Mr Collis, who lives in north London where the company is based, took A-level drama with British comedian and Little Britain star, Matt Lucas.

He went on to study design for communications media at the University of Manchester. He says: "I have always had a very strong interest in advertising and in acting and films. I like finding a creative way of selling something to someone."

How does he view the product placement industry over the next few years? "The industry will move and bend, and shape itself in terms of consumer behaviour.

"For instance, a lot more people are watching smart televisions, and online. More people will watch online, which allows brands a lot more opportunities to engage with the viewer. It is a much more interactive experience. The audience can click on a product to find out more about it. This means that brands can monetise it more."

Whatever happens, it is clear that, while product placement has long been established in the US as a marketing tool, it is now building some serious momentum in UK.

Last updated: 1:33pm, February 22 2013