Devery Holmes On The Spot

The president and CMO of Norm Marshall & Associates Entertainment & Marketing has been around the track, full circle from Regis Philbin mornings (she marketed his A.M. Los Angeles back in the day) to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the summer’s product placement-palooza, particularly for Wonder Bread. Since 1988, the 46-year-old has been at NMA—deal makers’ ground zero for branded marketing in movies—and her awards include a PMA Super Reggie for Samsung DigitAll in The Matrix Reloaded and a gold Reggie for a Baskin-Robbins/Shrek cross-promotion. Q: Are audiences reaching their product-placement limits?

A: I have a grid that says when it is done appropriately, consumers do not mind it. When it is a commercial within the body of an entertainment property, consumers are offended. A good example is in The Office. When it is done poorly, it doesn’t work for anyone’s benefit. A generic product looks awkward and forced. A bottle saying “Soda” rather than Coke takes you out of that world.

How did Talladega Nights happen?

As always, it started with the script. We read 600 scripts a year trying to find the right brand properties. Our team leader, Anne Evans, is a tremendous writer who can conceptualize the product and introduce the right brand-fits per scene. We look at every interior, every exterior, and match them with the client’s overall brand objective. We write a comprehensive synopsis; then the brand team will strategize everything from the product itself to signage, creating an environment where it would be realistically portrayed.

So, in this case, Wonder Bread came to you?

At first, many brands wanted to be in the movie, but the production thought Wonder Bread was the perfect brand image for Ricky Bobby. So we helped bring the promotion platform to Wonder Bread, which was something new to the brand. We developed the in-store creative for the display, the Web site and their free-standing inserts, and we’re executing their online sweepstakes at, which is the microsite.

We see brands like Toyota increasingly making fun of themselves as part of the brand marketing. Isn’t Wonder Bread being used as a mnemonic for “white bread”?

Wonder Bread even has a new line extension called White Bread Fan. Is it based on Wonder Bread being America’s favorite white bread? Absolutely. This is a brand that Ricky Bobby would care about, and in the dining room scene you do see that Wonder Bread is part of his world.

Does making fun of a brand lead to a greater acceptance of placements?

We all recognize that comedy is an effective vehicle. Gen Y doesn’t want to be sold. If you have fun doing it, you will care more about it. I think we’ve seen time and again that it has been effective. For example, the Super Bowl: a sense of humor has been introduced into brand campaigns. Ameriquest is a good example. TiVo has also found that audiences will not fast-forward through spots they enjoy.

What happens if a production doesn’t have a product in the original script?

We send suggestions for production, promotion, support. For Austin Powers and the Heineken brand, we sat around with the filmmakers, and Mike Myers came up with the brand slogan, “Get your hands off my Heine, baby!” and that became a promotional, integrated campaign. On the support side, day in and day out, we supply vehicles, Toshiba laptops, Sears Craftsman tools, Crystal Geyser water, U-Haul trucks. It adds realism to the production.

Do your clients want more than brand awareness. Do they want measurable ROI?

There are unique examples [of measurable ROI], such as Flashdance for Leotards and Ray-Ban in Risky Business or Reese’s Pieces in E.T. But usually clients want to break through, drive purchase consideration and awareness. And it may indeed drive ROI, but there has to be a metrics in place, and sometimes that is achieved by an integrated promotion. There are all kinds of consumer overlays: online entries, gift with purchase, FSIs, impact coupons, frequency programs. Look at what Sears did with Chicken Little and what Safeway did with Pirates of the Caribbean, using five different brands. They got very good dollar value.

What’s the consumer-overlay trend?

“Retail payment.” By that I mean multiple brands supporting a single property, such as the Safeway treasure map for Pirates to help the brands supporting the product. Also “account specific” is a huge growth area: bringing a program to Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot. Using big retailers for off-shelf displays that will drive consumer engagement.

What is the future of product placement?

Product differentiation within the digital evolution, and going to where the consumer is with mobile phones and PDAs. And fragmentation—programming options for every interest.

What do you regard as your greatest hits?

The American Airlines global strategy with the Home Alone franchise. We developed campaigns all over and with the DVD tie-in with Pepsi. … The Queer Eye guys driving a GMC vehicle. … Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Chocolicious Wonka Cakes with Johnny Depp. Hostess brand-Ogre green Twinkies—we created and managed that—and for King Kong, Banana-Filled Twinkies. We also executed that one, did the on-pack creative and all.