Bond, brands and social: product placement and online buzz
Hold on to your seats. Bond is back following a starring role in the Olympic opening ceremony and promises to be better than ever. Expect the clichés: girls, guns, gadgets, glamour. But the question on many lips (have I spent too much time in marketing environments?) is “what about the product placement?”
007 has enjoyed his brands since way back when. We all know about the Aston Martins and the Bollinger. In recent years, however, the product placement has been significantly ramped up (who can forget his clunky line when asked about his watch in Casino Royale: “Rolex?” “Omega.”) and there is significant revenue for the production company which, of course, leads to bigger and better stunts. I took a quick look to see if there was much social media buzz surrounding any brands linked with Skyfall (my thanks to Brandwatch for providing the data).
With the film only just released, brands vary in prominence. MacAllan and Omega don’t feature much, but Sony Xperia is prominent. The Xperia T smart phone was the centre of attention on 29 August when it was revealed as 007’s new mobile; in the US there was a further bounce at the start of October when AT&T announced its release. But way, way out in front when it comes to generating online arguments is 007’s new choice of drink.
Eschewing his usual Martini, Bond elects for a Heineken in Skyfall. This went largely unnoticed outside Bond enthusiast circles (yes, they do exist: the Absolutely James Bond forum has amassed nearly a quarter of a million posts to date) until an advertising campaign brought his preferences to a wider audience and the repercussions were instant…and not particularly complimentary. There is even a Facebook group called “Boycott Heineken because they make James Bond drink their piss” although the manufacturers will be relieved to note that (at time of writing) the group has attracted a rather paltry 49 members. Elsewhere, reactions are somewhat perplexed.
Comedian Al Murray tweeted
That Heineken advert has just shattered the fragile carapace of Skyfall anticipation I’d been nurturing.
— Al Murray (@ajhmurray) October 17, 2012
While Conor Lynn, who boasts 120,000 followers, remarked
Why has James Bond’s drink changed from Martini to Heineken? He is a slick spy, not a balding 45 year old who lives in Wetherspoon’s.
— Conor Lynn (@ConorLynn) October 17, 2012
Attention reached a peak on 21 September but has tailed off somewhat since. The most significant aspect for me is that the film hasn’t even been release, yet the brand is top of mind already. If Heineken’s aim was to get people talking, they’re succeeding so far – it will be interesting to see how attitudes towards the brand – both in the context of Bond and more generally – are affected once Skyfall is released.
But it’s Coke Zero who clearly had their social hats on when they came up with this campaign. With nearly 4 million view in six days, it’s proving a hit. Their supporting social activity demonstrates admirable holistic thinking: the Facebook page links to a competition on the CokeZone website, which in turn only accepts applications via a dedicated hashtag on Twitter…truly joining the dots.
Bond product placement is not merely a form of subliminal advertising but a full-blown campaign. The social aspect is driven by the campaign (in the case of Coke Zero) and the very existence of the product in the film (in the case of Heineken) but either way, these are examples where high-profile product placement, with associated marketing activity, can lead to an increase in organic conversations.
One key performance indicator in advertising is simple recall. My colleagues at Ipsos ASI, who specialise in advertising research, tell me that product placement tracking can be tricky as recall of a particular product after the event is usually just too low. Conversely, we tend to find that advertising campaigns only receive much attention in social media if they are particularly distinctive, controversial or prominent. But Bond transcends popular culture and we found that even before the film’s release there is already a significant volume of chatter about certain brands in a Bond context. Could the effectiveness of product placement be measured using social media listening in some way?