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Masterpiece Marketing

Branding Comes Early in Filmmaking Process


LOS ANGELES — Jordan Yospe had some notes on the script for “The 28th Amendment,” a thriller about a president and a rogue Special Forces agent on the run. Some of the White House scenes were not detailed enough, Mr. Yospe thought. And, he suggested, the heroes should stop for a snack while they were on the lam.

“There’s no fast-food scene at all, but they have to eat,” he said.

Mr. Yospe was not a screenwriter, not a producer, not even a studio executive. No, Mr. Yospe was a lawyer with the firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. He was meeting with the writer-producer Roberto Orci, who co-wrote “Transformers” and “Star Trek,” to talk about how to include brands in “The 28th Amendment.”

In the past, studio executives made deals to include products in films. Now, with the help of people like Mr. Yospe, writers and producers themselves are cutting the deals often before the movie is cast or the script is fully shaped, like “The 28th Amendment,” which Warner Brothers has agreed to distribute.

Now, having Campbell’s Soup or Chrysler associated with your project can be nearly as important to your pitch as signing Tom Cruise.  

For the moviegoer, the shift will mean that advertising will become more integral to the movie. The change may not be obvious at first, but the devil is going to wear a lot more Prada.

Manufacturers can stipulate that a clothing label must be tried on “in a positive manner,” or candy or hamburgers have to be eaten “judiciously.” A liquor company might sponsor a film only if there is no underage drinking or if the bar where its product is served is chic rather than seedy.

The more intricately a film involves a product, the more a brand pays for the appearance, offering fees ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million a film.

Trying to justify my exorbitant cable TV bill, I recently watched “The Island.” It was two hours of death-defying adventure, intelligence-defying plot and taste-defying product placement. For instance, after a busy day of eluding death squads in the dystopic future, you can refresh yourself with a bottle of Aqua Fina. And why not make your harrowing escapes in a BMW.

(BMW’s publicity was minor compared to the product placement that Mercedes Benz received in “Triumph of the Will“. Now that was a celebrity endorsement!)

But why should product placement be limited to movies or television?

Wouldn’t the astute corporation want the Bible, William Shakespeare and Leo Tolstoy to shill for its products? I am pleased to announce that my new editing service–Masterpiece Marketing– can offer product placement in the greatest works of literature.

Think of the promotional opportunities in The Odyssey. For instance, the astute sponsor could add some helpful details about the construction of the Trojan Horse.

“Now sing of that wooden horse,

the ambuscade Odysseus planned,

The wily Greek knew where to shop

For all his needs at Home Depot.”

Among other Homeric endorsers, Circe is very popular among pet-lovers, and Polyphemus would make a credible user of Visine. And, as each member of Odysseus’ crew is devoured or drowns, his dying words could be “This wouldn’t happen on a Carnival Cruise.”

The Bible can perform miracles for your marketing. For instance, the Ten Plagues of Egypt needs corporate sponsors. Frogs, flies and locusts tie in nicely with Orkin; boils and the deaths of the first-born are good reasons to have Blue Cross/Blue Shield. And why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense and myrrh?  They first checked the baby registry at Target. We can also arrange to have your company included in the Beatitudes.

Would your company like to appear in Shakespeare? “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by YOUR NAME HERE.” “Oh, brave new world that has YOUR PRODUCT in it!”  For a slight additional fee, your endorsement will be included in Cliff’s Notes.

Masterpiece Marketing also offers a multi-media package, providing product placement in a novel and its film adaptation. For example, “Anna Karenina” offers memorable endorsements for vodka, mattresses and trains.

Masterpiece Marketing: creative ways to improve the truth.

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