PRODUCT PLACEMENT GURU
(Has the Eyes of 15 Million Viewers!)
Okay. So, you’re watching “The Big Bang Theory” or “2 Broke Girls” or “The Good Wife” (is she?) and you see Sheldon or Caroline or Alicia brushing with bacon-flavored toothpaste, or playing with everyone’s favorite bedtime toy: the handy-dandy Nicolas Cage pillow, or reading a copy of “Wedding Cake Murder.” You’re going to want that stuff, right? And that’s the point. Product placement is all about getting TV and film audiences to drool over the cool things they see on screen, then go out and buy the Wasabi flavored potato chips and UFO detectors and Cashmere toilet paper. Comprenez vous?
One of the placement agencies out in Hollywood has an owner who is a wizard at making his clients’ products appear on top TV shows and films. He works his magic by making sure that his clients’ fun playthings get to production prop masters and set decorators and, subliminally, into your brain (and ultimately onto your credit card). This guru’s name is John Fluke. And his form of sorcery is called, product placement.
Fluke, the owner of the aptly named “Placed4Success” or “P4STV” Product Placement & Media Brand Enhancement firm (whose trademark is: Make YOUR Product a STAR!®) is a Hollywood insider who gets amazing items like (but not exactly like) Baby’s First Plastic Surgery Kit (what kid doesn’t need a new chin?!), and tobacco-flavored popcorn, and everything else imaginable (and unimaginable) past the studio Big-wigs, and onto the set of your fave TV show. He’s a big thing on the Warner Bros. and Paramount and Disney Studios’ lots. He’s the guy whose work infiltrates your subconscious while you’re watching “Shameless” or reruns of “Two and Half Men.”
“Product placement is not a commercial ad because our products are integrated into the show itself,” Fluke says of this masterful way of getting amazing must-have things to be seen by audiences of millions. And who watches commercials anymore anyway? Okay, so we might pause for Flo (’cause she’s cute) or the Geico gecko (’cause he’s cuter) in their respective insurance ads, but otherwise, it’s grab the remote and fast-forward, please. And hurry up about it! Gotta see what clues “NCIS’” forensic expert Abby is finding in the breast implant of a decapitated prostitute.
The cool thing about product placement is that the viewer doesn’t walk away when a product is shown because it’s part of the set or scene. “The product is literally in your face, but in an organic sort of way,” Fluke says. “A good product fit, such as ‘Slap Ya Mama’ hot sauce, might be on all the tables at the Williamsburg Diner (“2 Broke Girls”), and therefore, in practically every shot. That’s a great placement on screen,” Fluke continues. “The product is an established part of the set.”
Fluke says that 14.6 million people watch “The Big Bang Theory” each week. “Let’s say 10% of the people notice a product that’s used on the set. That’s still a million-four who have actually looked at that product and recognized it. Even if only 10% of that 10% are intrigued by the product enough to buy, that’s still 146,000 potential new customers. And, that’s just the first run of the show. Product placement, unlike a commercial, is on every single rerun. It’s on every digital download or DVD. It’s there forever!”
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”It’s the subliminal advertising that really drives the sales for the companies. –John Fluke, Owner, Placed4Success/P4STV” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/pullquote]
Fluke, with his larger-than-life personality, was born in rural Minnesota. Early in life, he divided his time between what he affectionately calls “the snow belt” (upper Midwest) and San Diego, California. “My mom’s a writer (notice that product placement in this article?) and we moved around a bit,” he says. After graduating from Merrick School of Business, he started working in the television industry, first in the mail room at Dick Clark Productions. “I worked probably fifty to sixty different productions out here in L.A., behind the camera, doing everything from being a “Go-fer” (a production associate) up to production coordinator, along the way came python wrangler, dolly grip, foley artist, and fixer,” Fluke recalls. Then he started working for a product placement company.
“I was working for a woman who had her own company, but she didn’t like calling clients or going out to the studios. So I basically took over that aspect of the business for her. She would go to the trade shows, while I took meetings at the studios, walked the sets and created the all-important relationships. Then the writers’ strike hit and she thought the sky was falling. So I started my own product placement/media brand enhancement business. I really like the entertainment industry and I love the studios. I can spend all day happily on set or on location, personally placing my client’s products where they will shine on screen,” he says, enthusiastically.
But the life of a product placement Jedi Master can be nutsy-cuckoo. “I’m in the office every day of the week,” Fluke says of his nearly 24/7 routine. “I usually start at four thirty or five o’clock in the morning because I have East Coast clients who forget what time it is in Los Angeles, so I figure I may as well be in the office when they start calling. Then, at any time of day or night, I’m making placement deals. We also go to the trade shows so I can see our clients and talk to them face to face.”
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”A product on set will make its way into the audiences’s subconsious and eventually they’re gonna notice it.” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/pullquote]
Fluke’s fun personality has served him well in an industry that heavily relies upon one-on-one relationships. “Set decorators, prop masters and cameramen are all-important to our success,” he says. “We work closely together, and it shows! Placement’s a way for them to get real–life products to use on their shows that usually don’t require time-intensive clearances from the studio legal departments.”
The shows that Placed4Success has worked with, in addition to “Big Bang Theory” are indeed varied, including “Two and Half Men,” “Shameless,” “Mike and Molly,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “NCIS” (and its spin-off shows) and the upcoming Netflix series, “The Ranch,” starring Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliot and Debra Winger.
“‘Shameless’ was ideal for our client, Tito’s vodka,” Fluke says. “It’s a wild and crazy show and a bar is one of the main sets.” And Tito’s vodka is a classic example of how Place4Success has brought a client to national attention. “When we started placing Tito’s on air, it was only distributed locally. Now look where are they,” Fluke smiles with pride. “They’ve got a great vodka, a great product. They exploded from Austin, Texas to literally worldwide distribution. Heck, now Titos is even on American Airlines and featured on Princess Cruises.”
So, if a company wants to get their flavored lickable wallpaper, or Yeti footprint shoes, or Bluetooth-connected grave stones (just plug in a UB flash drive and leave a message for Mom and Dad) to the attention of 15 million potential customers, without spending a fortune for a commercial, they might want to consider product placement. “Even if only a fraction of that 15 million audience buys their product, even a small company is so much further ahead than they were,” Fluke concludes. “Product placement is a powerful way to crack open the revenue door for companies large and small. We are a huge part of the marketing mix and the potential visibility that we offer for products is almost unlimited.”
Check out the Placed4Success website http://www.P4STV.com. And the next time you watch an episode of well, anything, pay attention to the stuff used on the set. It was probably placed there by John Fluke. You’ll definitely want that personalized blacksmith branding iron! Or the bourbon-flavored marshmallows. Or the pet ferret obedience training kit. Fetch!
# # #
R.T. Jordan is a contributing writer for E-Pick Weekly. He’s written a dozen books and has the superhero power of invisibility. Visit him at http://www.Rtjordan.com.