That all changed as this Kat went recently to the theatre to watch the movie, The Big Short”, which is an Academy-award nominated film about the 2008 financial crash and some of those who profited from it. Sounds ho-hum, but it is actually an inspired piece of film-making. But that is of secondary importance. The highlight for this Kat was a scene, about 20 minutes into the movie, which takes place in an office (it is Wall Street, after all). The camera focused for a sliver of a second on a table on which a book rested. This Kat managed to read what he thinks is the title of the book— “Intellectual Property in the Global Marketplace.” He then exclaimed, for most of the movie theatre to hear—
“That’s my book!”It transpires that in 1999, this Kat, together with two other co-editors, produced a two-volume publication by that name. We would like to believe that this publication has made its way into various offices and libraries. But this was a first-—our book had made it into the movies, which meant that I had made it into the movies, carrying on the family tradition.
This Kat then moved into bragging rights mode—after all, he wanted to be sure. So he identified the two production companies responsible for the film. He had no success in making contact with the first, but he did finally speak with the other. A representative of that company said that he would check this for me, but several weeks have passed and this Kat has heard nothing more. This Kat also contacted the book publisher’s rights clearance department. It had no record of being contacted about the book. However, in sharing the events with one of my co-editors, he reported that his wife had viewed the film a few days before, and she was also convinced that she had seen the book in the same scene. All in all, this Kat feels quite secure in the belief this “his” book had made it into the movies.
All of this got this Kat into thinking about product placement and props. A November 2015 blogpost written by Lindsay Kolowich made several interesting points in this regard:
1. Most people think about product placements in terms of the movies, but actually television accounts for over 71% of all paid placements. Almost 75% of television network programs feature some type of product placement. But product placements are not limited to movies and television programs; video games and pop music are other channels that are frequently used.
2. Regarding costs, Kolowich writes—
“Product integration into multiple episodes of prime time television series can cost a brand $3–10 million (with full-series deals exceeding $50 million). As for integrations into movies? You're looking at tens of millions of dollars. However, those figures are cheap compared to the 30-second ad spots on television -- especially since people can tune out or skip the ads.”an Ace comb by James Dean in the iconic 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause. The comb was part of the storyline and image that emotively engaged young male viewers, and resulted in a significant increase in sales for the comb. What happened in the context of Rebel Without a Cause is still the dream of many product placements.
4. But product placements are not always simply about money. Not infrequently, product placements are done for free, as the movie, program or music producer wants to form an alliance with a brand by incorporating the branded product into the production. This is another way of saying that there are multiple reasons why a product placement may be in the interests of both sides.
Obviously, the brief sighting of this Kat’s book in The Big Short had nothing to do with product placements of this kind. To the contrary, as noted, this Kat’s interest derived from emotive engagement of a different kind (“he had finally made it into the movies”) and seeking to confirm that he had indeed enjoyed 1-2 seconds of cinema fame. One wonders how many times in a movie or program a prop appears, without the production company giving any further thought to seeking clearance, even if clearance is not strictly required. Still, in recounting this story to others, almost all have observed— “maybe you have some rights here?” Even if seeking enforceable rights in the showing of the book in the movie had been this Kat’s interest (which, of course, it was not), none was to be found in The Big Short. That said, it does occur to ask: what if the book had been used in a movie that this Kat finds unacceptable and to which he does not want to be associated?