Product placement, whether it’s a Mac computer in a movie or Blake Lively drinking Starbucks in “Gossip Girl,” has evolved into it’s own industry and a powerful extension of public relations for many brands. Though as powerful as it is, we have found a lot of fashion brands still aren’t exploring this territory.
Not only is the brand entering the homes of millions of viewers internationally, but the brands worn by a character are also highlighted on websites and through social media after the show airs. With a rise of online chatter of what Lena Dunham was wearing in the most recent episode of “Girls,” or a dress worn by Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl” selling out overnight, it only makes sense to include television in a PR campaign. But how do you tap into this industry?
We sat down with Linda Kearns of the Matchbook Company, who represents some of the top costume design talent in the country, including Janie Bryant of “Mad Men,” Dan Lawson of “The Good Wife,” Jenn Rogien of “Girls” and “Orange is the New Black” and Soyon An of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” Dan Lawson of “The Good Wife” and weekly contributor to InStyle.com also joined us to give his point of view as a costume designer. We got the scoop on how to approach a costume designer and when is the best time to pursue brand endorsements.
What do you suggest as a general approach for product placement in a TV show or movie?
Linda: First and most importantly, the product has to be authentic to the characters in the show and the script. If you are certain it is, then go ahead and reach out. Invite the costume designers to press previews, showroom visits, send line sheets, send product for consideration, etc. Often times, they will be sourcing for a different season than the time you reach out. So it is good to get your product on their radar for the future as well.
How does a publicist or brand get in touch with a costume designer?
Linda: You can send an email to a costume department at the specific show, send an email direct to the designer (which you can often find on their websites), tweet to them, or contact us and we will pass along for our clients. Be short and to the point and send a photo or link. Make sure you know the show and the characters!
Do fashion designers/brands ever pay to have their garments worn on TV or is it strictly PR?
Dan: Every so often, there will be a designer who sends us stuff that is appropriate for the show and we will contact them and take a look. One of the problems that costume designers who get solicited a lot have is that up-and-coming designers will say “I think that this is perfect for your show” and then you’ll look at it, and it’s not appropriate at all. There should be a little more thought into what show the clothes will be appropriate for. I can’t tell you the number of times I get solicited for “The Good Wife” with emails that say “This is perfect for Kalinda!” and I’m like “No it’s not. It’s not even close.” They have to put a little thought into it before doing a blind mailing.
We actually pay for the clothes we use on the show because a lot of times we keep the clothes for a while, and sometimes we can re-use it later. We also have the freedom to alter it. We go into the stores, especially department stores because you get so many designers in one location. We do a lot of Zappos for shoes.
There have been a rise in brand collaborations with TV shows, such as Mad Men with Banana Republic. What should a brand consider in potentially working with a costume designer?
Linda: Yes, we have some very successful brand relationships for our clients. Janie Bryant, the Costume Designer of “Mad Men” (and previously “Deadwood”), serves as brand ambassador for Maidenform Intimate Apparel where she has designed a capsule collection for their 90th anniversary and provides fit and fashion tips. This came about because Maidenform was mentioned in her book “The Fashion File,” and because Janie is a strong proponent of the importance of the right fitting intimate apparel as the foundation to any great look on or off the screen. Janie also just released a fabric care guide with Downy Wrinkle Releaser for vintage and modern fabrics.
How have these brand collaborations and more attention on costume designers changed the industry?
Dan: With television, you are going into people’s homes. They are a captivated audience. We have seen more interest in fashion TV because it is becoming more accessible. With costume designers stepping in and doing a line with Bebe or doing a line at Banana Republic, now the public can actually attain the look that they’re seeing on TV, and it’s just started. I think it’s going to grow and grow. CBS did something with Bebe and 90210, and they had a miniature collection and it was really popular because people could get that look they saw on the show. Social media is bringing the worlds together.
A lot of fashion houses think movies are the ultimate, then magazines, billboard, editorial, then TV. I don’t understand that, because I guarantee you TV reaches a lot more people than movies. We’ve actually had companies tell us we only do movies, we are not interested in TV shows. Before 2008, you would walk into a boutique and they were not interested, but a lot of them are coming around.
With growing media interest in what is being worn on television, once a product has been worn, what is the best way for a publicist to maximize that exposure?
Dan: Talk about the brands used on Facebook and Twitter. People write in to us asking for it. There are some websites that clip a picture of the scene and include information on the brand and where you can buy it, such as Possessionista.
Editor’s Note: We would also pitch it to celebrity publications such as People and US Weekly, and Tumblr accounts dedicated to characters on the shows, such as What Was Jess Wearing?!