Product Placement Manager

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Product placement—otherwise known as embedded marketing or brand integration—is the practice of plugging a consumer product or trademarked brand into movies, TV shows, music videos or songs, video games and the like. The makers of consumer goods often employ product placement managers, also known as brand advocates, to pursue brand integration opportunities and field requests for use by product placement executives at entertainment companies.


Duties

People who work in product placement find that job titles vary widely; depending on their experience and the size of the company, they may rank as managers, directors, or VPs, and the department may be called product integration, brand marketing, strategic partnership or any number of other possible names. The primary responsibility of the product placement manager, however he or she is identified on a business card, is to ensure that the product and brand associated with his or her company is featured in a positive light and that embedded marketing garners increased exposure for the product, thereby benefiting sales. Simply put, the brand advocate wants to be sure that the cell phone or bottle of cologne looks good, reaches the target audience, and makes a lot of money. Part of that job is identifying entertainment productions or celebrities that embody the lifestyle implied by the product and seeking to secure a deal for product placement associated with a movie, show, recording artist, etc. The other half of the gig is sifting through requests from entertainment companies seeking the use of the product or brand in a production. Rights have to be cleared with the trademark owner for the use of a product, so that E.T. can eat Reese’s Pieces instead of chocolate-coated peanut-butter candies and the audience can see the Cheerios label as opposed to a strip of gaffers tape or a generic “Cereal” sticker.

As with his or her counterparts at entertainment companies and advertising agencies, the product placement manager is tasked with a considerable amount of research regarding consumer spending habits, target demographics, the values associated with different types of exposure, and how that information can help steer the company toward beneficial embedded marketing. The brand advocate must stay current on celebrities, albums, games, and shows and films in production, and always have an eye out for the competition. One ingenious move in reverse product placement was a designer handbag maker sending freebies from their competitors to Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi in an effort to deface those other brands with a negative association.

Skills & Education

A college degree in marketing, advertising, or public relations is highly recommended, and students should supplement coursework in entertainment business, copyright law, and statistics. The product placement manager must be just as comfortable with spreadsheets and data sets as he or she is playing hardball with a film studio executive over the negotiating table. Of course, an iron will should not overpower charm. As the face of your company to potential business partners, you need to exude the “personality” of your brand and be capable of fostering positive relationships with other professionals. Continuing education in marketing practices in necessary, as is constant attention to the consumer market and entertainment media trends.

What to Expect

Cutting a deal for product placement relies entirely on reaching an equitable agreement between parties: one can grant use of a tangible product or brand profile; and the other, the intangible value of media exposure. While this involves a considerable amount of number-crunching, it also demands an individual who is a creative thinker, who can see the big picture, and whose instincts can predict a substantial return on investment. Embedded marketing is a risk in nearly every instance. A campaign gone wrong—Burger King having to recall Shrek cups for potential harm to children comes to mind—can sink a career. The place to start a path toward product placement management is with an internship or entry-level position in the marketing department of a consumer goods company or large entertainment corporation. With experience and work history, reaching your career objective is simply a matter of steering your career toward the specialty of product placement.

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