Placing value on placement

Dec 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Product placement usually has a price, but until now its value was anybody’s guess.
iTVX, which bills itself as the “interactive product placement network,” is a new company that intends to put dollar signs on placements in much the same way that commercials are valued. iTVX will charge clients between $2,000 and $5,000 per month for the right to access its Web site, where it will quantify the value of each placement across various parameters.
iTVX is currently showing prospective clients, including Kraft and Unilever, demos at the site, where various past placements are valued. Those demo valuations range from $3,389, for a three-second walk-by in front of a supermarket aisle featuring All detergent in a 1999 episode of “Sex and the City” to $33,980 for a seven-second shot that included a close-up of a bottle of Sunlight detergent in a 2000 episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” to more than $226,536 for a lengthy 1994 “Friends” placement in which a bottle of Snuggle detergent was not only held but also mentioned by one of the characters.
“For the first time we’re taking subjectivity and making it objective,” said Frank Zazza, the placement veteran who heads iTVX.
To do this, iTVX has developed a scale of product exposure levels. The lowest level, for example, is simply a clear product logo in the background of a shot or a scene. Level 3 is “background plus a close-up” that includes the product. Level 6 includes not only a product close-up but also a “hands-on” interaction by one of the actors. Level 9 adds a verbal mention to the hands-on interaction. And at Level 10, the ultimate in product placement, a show’s entire episode is written around a product; for example, the Junior Mints episode of “Seinfeld,” in which Jerry and Kramer munch the candies while blithely watching a surgical procedure. The value of that exposure is “off the charts,” Mr. Zazza said.
“It’s really going to mean a lot to our organization in terms of putting a value on product placement,” said Louise Milano, marketing resource manager for Unilever, whose brands include Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Lipton tea. “It puts a number on it, and people like to see numbers,” said Ms. Milano, who had recently viewed the iTVX demonstration.
The `impact factor’
Among other factors in the iTVX formula are length of time the product is shown and the “impact factor” of a placement, which Mr. Zazza defined as the “percentage of the value of a product-placement second in a show [compared] with that of a commercial second if purchased for the show.”
That impact factor can range from a small percentage of the cost of an equivalent commercial to “as high as 500 percent of a commercial second,” according to Mr. Zazza. Approximately twice as many people watch a show than watch the commercials within it, he added, and viewers tend to have a better recall of the show than of its commercials.
iTVX will offer clients information on placements in any show on the six broadcast networks as well as on HBO, Lifetime and Discovery, Mr. Zazza said. “You now have the ability for a network and a marketer to do business together. You have some type of an unbiased third party,” he said. “You could pay by performance, after [the placement] appears, just like a commercial.”
Mr. Zazza, who has been placing products in films and TV for more than 20 years, recalled being involved with some of the most famous placements in media history, including being part of the teams that brought Reese’s Pieces to “E.T.” and Junior Mints to “Seinfeld.”
The company’s Web site is iTVX.com.
The Advertising page is edited Louis Chunovic, who can be reached by phone at 212-210-0233, by fax at 212-210-0400, or by e-mail at lchunovic@crain.com.