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Celebrity Product Placement: A Primer

by Jonathan Holiff  |  
February 22, 2005

With more and more companies wanting to integrate their products into the lives of celebrities, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at celebrity product placement. Here are three common approaches and a description of what steps you can take to encourage results.

The term "celebrity product placement" is used to describe several related techniques, but its definition applies to each: free products are distributed to celebrities in expectation of a promotional benefit. Unlike the more overt, paid-for endorsement, it offers a distinct advantage. A product appears as a product choice made by a celebrity according to individual preference.

Most marketers are unaware of their options in this category (one form features contracts with celebrities, guaranteeing performance and allowing marketers to actively leverage celebrity patrons in the media) and therefore many overlook a very powerful influencer-marketing technique.

In this article, I will describe each of the three main approaches and discuss their relative merits by listing their pros and cons. I also hope to quash any misconception that celebrity product placement has to be a gamble, and show you how best to secure a return on investment.

But first, a little history.

Celebrity product placement (sometimes called "celebrity seeding") has been with us since the dawn of marketing. Centuries before Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into his first Hummer, an 18th century potter named Josiah Wedgwood began supplying his wares to England's Queen Charlotte. Receiving the title "Potter to Her Majesty" led to a huge amount of publicity for Wedgwood, which he took advantage of by using the term "Queen's Ware" to describe his product.

Those efforts that did succeed, however, were so successful that independent specialists emerged to help companies achieve better results. But the services they offer vary, and so do the results.

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Jonathan Holiff is president and CEO of The Hollywood-Madison Group (

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