Nicole Berger, is a unique type of script analyst. While most script analysts are concerned with issues including character arcs, plot and dialogue, Nicole’s role is to mine for opportunities where products and services can be advertised through either placement or integration.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT vs PRODUCT INTEGRATION
Generally, when we think of products in films or TV we think of a character drinking a can of Coca-Cola, which is Product Placement. Product branding has developed into something far more creative AND lucrative for filmmakers than mere Placement. Now products are actually integrated into the storyline of a script via dialogue, theme, action and visuals.
For instance, if a Redbull is sitting on a kitchen counter with the logo prominently displayed, it is Placement. However, if Redbull is integrated into the dialogue and action it is Integration. Some Integrations are just 15-60 seconds long while others exist throughout the storyline (as with Redbull on Family Guy).
Filmmaking is a business, which is why the majority of TV shows and films made these days have alternative funding derived from Product Integration spots. According to PQ Media over 5 billion dollars are spent every year in the US alone on EMBEDDED ADVERTISING. Therefore, to be ahead of the game as a screenwriter it would be wise to understand how Product Integration works and how it might work for you. Your skill set should include:
a) Knowing what potential branding already exists in your script.
b) The ability to come up with clever integration ideas and good dialogue that can be added into a script without compromising the integrity of the film.
ANALYZING YOUR SCRIPT FOR POTENTIAL BRANDING
The strongest time period for Product Integration is generally the present day because brands often have new sets of objectives and packaging that they want to push. For example, Cadillac doesn’t want to be seen any longer as the vehicle used by big shots. Advertisers are willing to pay to have their car used in a film with a scientist driving a Cadi. Sci-Fi films have potential branding possibilities too. The “Audi RSQ” concept car that played a central role in I, Robot was created specifically for the film. The past is not an impossible challenge either. There are a several products that have been around for decades that can work in period projects. Canadian Club, for example, is Don Draper’s whiskey of choice on Mad Men and was featured on Boardwalk Empire. Canadian’s marketing strategy also included a high profile party in Hollywood at the R Bar with drinks named after characters on Empire.
Basic Types of Products to look for when giving your script a product analysis are: Food/Beverages (grocery items, alcohol, restaurants, fast food, snacks, etc.), Electronics (telephones, computers, applications, household tools), Vehicles (automobiles, bikes, motorcycles, planes), Apparel (accessories, shoes, bags, vendors), Locations (gyms, amusement parks, hotels, foreign travel), Personal Hygiene and Cleaning Products (dish soap, shampoo, lotion, etc.)
It’s essential to create a demographic profile of the film’s audience for the filmmakers that includes gender, income and age range so that we don’t waste time pursuing brands whose buyers don’t match the film’s target audience. For example, there’s no use in branding tampons into an action film that will appeal primarily to men.
Something very important to the brands is that their product not be depicted in a negative manner. For example, Bosch Drills never wants their product used in a horror film in which someone’s head gets drilled to a wall! Another example, McDonald’s doesn’t want a scene in which a classmate reminds a friend that there is no nutrition in a Big Mac.
WRITING INTEGRATIONS INTO YOUR SCRIPT
An integration doesn’t have to be a “sell-out” moment that destroys the integrity of a film. Products are used in everyday life. The challenge is to write the integration organically – not everyone can do this with ease.
The key to good product integration is seamlessness or at the very least, a great sense of humor. It takes some finesse to avoid being obvious; neither the filmmakers nor the brand want the audience to be hit over the head and pulled out of the story with what feels like a commercial unless you’re making a joke out of it. Consider the film “Wayne’s World,” when Wayne says “Contract or no, I will not bow to any corporate sponsor,” as he opens up a box of Pizza Hut, the camera stays on the logo and he smiles with a slice next to his face.
Smart integrations are usually an extension of a character’s personality. If you know your characters really well you can play off of behavior the audience will find authentic. For example, in an old but brilliant integration with Groucho Marx from “Horse Feathers,” Thelma Todd falls out of a canoe and calls for a life saver so Groucho tosses her a Life Savers’ candy. The reason this works so great is because we know Groucho as a prankster who always puts humor above chivalry. If you have a character who’s into fashion (like a Carrie Bradshaw type) you could easily write an integration for a clothing brand in which she camps out, for example, on the sidewalk of a department store the night before a big sale so that she can get a discount on a dress she’s been eyeing.
A light hearted attitude when approaching this form of writing is very helpful; in general, it’s hard to force a joke or a good idea. In addition, there is a certain amount of back and forth that can take place between the brands and the filmmakers as the two parties attempt to sculpt an integration that meets both a brand’s objectives and is entertaining. It’s a unique beast but as a writer, if you see it as a worth while challenge, it can be fun.