Water company almost ices boss in placement deal

So what's the story?
Long gone are the days when product placement might induce a 'Look there's a box of Wheaties' reaction from viewers. And over-the-top reached a new low with the product-placement spoof Josie and the Pussycats, in which every square inch of every shot was overstuffed with logos.

So what’s the story?

Long gone are the days when product placement might induce a ‘Look there’s a box of Wheaties’ reaction from viewers. And over-the-top reached a new low with the product-placement spoof Josie and the Pussycats, in which every square inch of every shot was overstuffed with logos.

Brand names have become so commonplace on the screen that it is almost more curious when products are conspicuously absent from view. That’s hardly the case for upstart Californian outfit Sitka Beverage Company, purveyor of True Water bottled water from springs in Alaska. Since its inception in 1997, the water-makers have relied heavily on Hollywood to market the brand, with placement deals in TV series like Everybody Loves Raymond, Ally McBeal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Why not just run an ad?

Todd Saunders, VP marketing, True Water, says, ‘We’re a new brand that can’t be found in every city across North America. Our intention has always been to be a national brand. An average media buy costs between US$200,000 and US$500,000. So our strategy was to get solid exposure and grow our brand, while saving on marketing costs.’

Saunders estimates that placement typically costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of US$1200, most of which is supplying product and shipping. As to how the investment affects sales, Saunders says that True Water does get more phone calls after product placement, but that they have not tried to quantify the results.

Product placement represents approximately 15% of the marketing budget. The company also does extensive print ads in conjunction with localized retailers, radio spots and event sponsorship.

What’s next?

True Water’s next big appearance will be in Tuxedo, the newest Jackie Chan vehicle set for release through Dreamworks SKG in June. In the movie, the water source is poisoned, begging natural questions about negative fallout for the product. At one point, True Water even agreed to having its 73-year-old CEO killed in the movie, an idea that the company thought might be fun.

Isn’t plotting the demise of the ceo and being in a flick premised on poisoned water risky?

‘There’s always a small risk if it reflects poorly on the product,’ says Saunders. ‘Even so, I’m of the school that any exposure is positive for a product, even if you cringe when you see it.

But just to be on the safe side, when the movie does make reference to water sources later on it is to a fictitious brand. And the CEO biting the dust? Cooler heads prevailed and that plot twist was omitted.

The true perils of product placement are more often finding yourself on the cutting room floor. According to Saunders, You can’t always get a clear shot of the star holding the water unless you have bought preferential rights and have a contract.’

To wit, for Miramax’s Duplex, starring Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller, True Water has purchased preferential rights and will tie in a nationwide promotion. The promo will feature an under-the-cap contest to win a block party in cities across America and a cruise up to Alaska, where True Water is sourced. A joint Miramax/True Water Web page will randomly select winners from those who have been collecting bottle cap numbers.

When it comes to liquid intake, consumers, after all, are attracted to stars and their choices.