Overview:  Postmedia Network Canada Corp.’s online publication, Canada, interviewed Hollywood Branded’s CEO Stacy Jones on The Great Gatsby’s brand partnerships.

The Great Gatsby’s multichannel marketing a sign of things to come

The Great Gatsby, which hits theatres May 10, is being called the most stylish movie ever made. It’s ironic, then, that the film’s multichannel marketing has demonstrated all the subtlety of Liberace’s piano.

Gone are the days when a character would simply name-check a brand on screen, and Gatsby’s prolific partnerships are dazzling evidence of that. The picture’s roll-out has so far included a cosmetics collaboration with MAC; apparel by Prada and Brooks Brothers; a jewellery collection from Tiffany; a hosiery line by Fogal; product placement of Moet & Chandon; and co-branding with the iconic Plaza Hotel in New York.

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It’s no wonder a new industry report pegs product placement’s value at $8.3 billion – up 12 per cent over 2011 – with the first quarter of 2013 on pace for a fourth consecutive year of growth.

“It’s really a global phenomenon,” said Patrick Quinn, president of industry analytics firm PQ Media. “The rise of reality television, and funding it through these different means, was a keystone for the overall re-emergence (of product placement).”

Sanjay Sood, associate professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles, said what consumers are experiencing now “is only the beginning.”

“As budgets increase, films are going to have to continue to look for partners to help defray some of the costs,” said Sood. “You’re seeing the movies treat themselves more and more like a brand franchise.”

The approach, too, is evolving. Once a flirtatious wink, product placement is now a lingering gaze that makes no secret of its desire to sell.

Gatsby’s alliance with Fairmont Hotels, for example, will see the Plaza pay tribute to the film with a Moet pop-up Champagne bar; a weekly “Gatsby Hour” featuring live jazz and speakeasy menu; a display of costumes and props featured in the movie; gift shop items inspired by the picture; and a decadent Fitzgerald Suite that gives guests an immersive Gatsby experience.

Fairmont’s Mike Taylor said the partnership evokes the property’s storied history – Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald was a frequent patron (Ernest Hemingway once advised him to give his liver to Princeton and his heart to the Plaza) – while helping “create genuine buzz around the hotel.”

It’s a powerful example of how brand integration has become just as important off-screen as on. In fact, Stacy Jones, who has nearly two decades of experience with product placement, believes that after 80-plus years of slow build, the practice is “just entering its heyday.”

Jones cited a fragmented market, ad-skipping culture and soaring production costs among the key reasons marketers are looking to product placement as a Hail Mary. At the same time, however, she cautioned that the public can get the wrong idea.

“The biggest misperception people have is that everything they see on screen must have been paid for by an advertiser, and it’s just not,” said Jones, CEO of Hollywood Branded. “I’d say a good 95 per cent of the placements you see in TV shows and in feature films are there because they saved dollars for the production.”

For instance, BlackBerry’s cameos in Zero Dark Thirty – facilitated by Jones – were not paid. Jones explains that most arrangements tend to be straight trades or loans, to reduce filming costs, or co-branding efforts in which a planned media-buy is linked to a compatible movie (say, the new Audi R8 commercial incorporating Iron Man 3).

Gigi Johnson, an entertainment futurist with the Maremel Institute in California, sees the phenomenon as a response to the magnified sense of urgency around a film’s success.

“The risk of making a movie has changed with the broad drop-off in DVD sales, which used to cover many sins,” said Johnson. “Broad product integration doesn’t speak to an exclusive demographic, but lets people know that something cool is coming and creates nearer to 100 per cent awareness – something you desire for a product that has only weeks on the proverbial shelves.”

A scene from The Great Gatsby featuring Moet & Chandon.           The Fitzgerald Suite at the Plaza hotel.

mharris(at)postmedia.com, Twitter.com/popcultini

Stacy Jones

Stacy Jones has become a world-renowned specialist in branded content. Now it’s her mission to share her expertise and help brands and other business owners and executives leverage the tools our agency has crafted in building brand awareness – using the same proven methods she’s built her agency on and leveraged for client success.