How Brands Show Up in Entertainment Matters

Zombieland cast

Here’s How Relationships Help You Do It Safely

While Cosmopolitans became synonymous with HBO’s hit series Sex and the City in the late 1990s, the 2021 series reboot didn’t cast alcohol in quite such a glamorous light. Thankfully for Pernod and Campari, a well-connected agency told them about a character’s drinking problem and the brand avoided working with the production as a result. Likewise, Proximo excised their tequila brand’s appearance in a House of Lies orgy scene thanks to a similar agency relationship.

While it’s great to have a presence in entertainment, how brands show up matters even more for brand safety. That’s why brands should leverage the right consultation and relationships to make sure the content they are placed in airs them in a positive light that aligns with their brand guidelines.

In advertising, brand safety refers to brands avoiding opportunities that may negatively impact their image, such as questionable or inappropriate content. See how notable brands used strong relationships to avoid integrations that didn’t jive with their brand values.

How These Alcohol Brands Evaded Dicey Situations
In the movie Flight, Denzel Washington played an alcoholic airline pilot who miraculously crash-lands his plane after a mechanical failure. For the role, Washington asked to drink Heineken, but the brand’s agency thankfully had a strong relationship with a prop master on set and knew that would be a very bad look. Therefore, filmmakers used another beer for the sensitive scene.

Knowing reputation management is paramount, Heineken also pushed back when the brand caught wind of Showtime’s House of Lies wanting to show a monkey drinking the beer in a drug-riddled party scene. Fortunately, being proactive and having established industry relationships enabled Heineken to elude this monkey business.

In another situation involving alcohol, Malibu Rum worked with HBO’s Euphoria producers to stop the production from showing teenage characters drinking the rum in a party scene. The brand wanted nothing to do with appearing to support underage drinking.

Neither did San Simone, the Italian sparkling wine purveyor, who opted out of a scene in the new Weeknd and Jenna Ortega film for Spotify that involved underage drinking from a bottle of champagne. A strong agency relationship helps any brand avoid missteps such as this in product placement.

How Other Brands Maintain Good Standing
Brand safety isn’t only an important consideration for alcohol brands.

In the feature film, Unplugging, the GM Team prevented filmmakers from using Chevy as the main characters’ vehicle, which suddenly and mysteriously becomes inoperable while driving. Because GM’s agency alerted them early on, the production ultimately used a Ford for the scene.

Dyson dodged a bullet in AMC’s Breaking Bad when the show instead featured a Roomba as a hiding place for drugs. The switch allowed Dyson to escape an association with a meth operation as a result.

BabyBjorn’s agency prevented a brand safety disaster when their high-end products were requested for carrying animals instead of babies in a film production

Zombieland could have earned a prize for the potentially strangest Hostess product feature. While the film wanted to show a Twinkie-obsessed redneck zombie killer chowing down on the snack, Hostess worked with producers to cut the scene. Zombies aren’t the Hostess brand’s target audience, evidently.

Safety Matters – But Don’t Go Overboard
Brand safety zealots take note: it is possible to go too far in protecting your brand. The marketing director at candy-maker M&M’s learned this the hard way when the leader turned down filmmakers producing the movie E.T., the Extraterrestrial. The brand vehemently refused because an extraterrestrial eating their product wasn’t in their guidelines. Hershey accepted an offer to use Reese’s Pieces in the movie, and with the film’s blockbuster success, its product sales dramatically increased.

While taking risks can be well worthwhile, always keep brand safety in mind. Working with a reputable product placement agency can help brands find opportunities well suited to their ethos and get closer to their target audience.

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