By Jordan Yospe (Guest Blogger, Eisner Jaffe)
I regularly speak with film and TV producers, managers, agents and other entertainment lawyers seeking to clarify some widely misunderstood concepts in the branded entertainment industry. I’d like to share some of what I’ve explained to them in the hopes of clearing up the most prevalent misconceptions:
Product placement was the only term I understood when I accidentally stumbled upon this space about 15 years ago. The other models for the most part did not exist, or at least were not in use enough at that time to be given a label. When a production wanted free “stuff,” a crew member in props or set deck typically called a “product placement company” (and there were only a handful at that time). These companies, who represent and are paid by brands, are tasked with giving away their clients’ product in return for potential exposure and keeping competing brands out of the project. So producers received free products needed for production (or food/drinks for craft services) and really didn’t have to do much in return. A good deal, plus simple two-page agreements made it very easy for the lawyers and production managers!
Then in the early 2000s, some TV and movie productions started featuring products so prominently that the issue of payment was raised. Placement companies do not typically have money (and their job is to get their brands into productions for free anyway), so we as the production company went to advertising and talent agencies representing brands, and when that didn’t work, directly to the brands themselves.
The term brand integration was thus concocted to distinguish these deals, which in essence were placement deals on steroids. If a production could actually integrate a brand and/or its brand objectives into the creative, rather than simply place a brand into a scene, the brand might deem this worthy of actually paying a fee. Complexities quickly arose, however. Creatively, some of these integrations were subtle and seamless, others not so much. From the business side, heretofore advertising industry notions such as payment schedules, exclusivity, brand representations and depictions, brand impressions and CPMs, damages, make-goods, and a litany of other non-production industry constructs spawned legal clashes that led to lengthy and complex agreements. But in the end, we as producers discovered a great new source of revenue and financing, which has today become an industry in and of itself.
Activations are what brand executives cleverly call marketing campaigns (actually, when I researched this, I learned the advertisers of the 1950s used the term “commercial tie-ins”). The bad news for producers and lawyers was that this now led to even more things we needed to do to collect our new found money. The good news, however, was that producers now had a way to actually exert some control in movie or TV marketing campaigns, which had previously been pretty much the sole domain of the studios and networks.
Free product, cash, marketing support — now all are available to producers and music artist managers who know how to exploit these exciting and lucrative opportunities.
About Jordan Yospe (Of Counsel at the Beverly Hills law firm Eisner Jaffe)
Jordan Yospe is recognized as one of the country’s leading brand integration experts and an authority in sourcing, negotiation and managing brand integration deals for feature films, television, new media and music tours. Having gone to both law school and film school, he has been involved in the production of numerous feature films and television series. As former Head of Business & Legal Affairs at Mark Burnett Productions, Yospe was integrally involved in several well-known network television series typically acknowledged to be at the forefront of integration and activation campaigns, including Survivor and Rock Star: INXS with CBS; The Apprentice and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart with NBC; and The Contender with NBC and Dreamworks.
Yospe was named to Variety’s Annual Dealmakers Impact Report List and multiple times to The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Power Lawyers list; was named among the Top 40 Entertainment Lawyers by The Los Angeles Business Journal; and his pioneering work on the integration of brands into entertainment was featured in a front page article in the April 5, 2010 issue of The New York Times.