Branson, Bond, and the anatomy of a product placement

Posted by: Burth Helm on November 28, 2006

Last weekend I caught the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. The flick packs more than its fair share of product placements, of course. But look closely, and you’ll also see a person placement. In the background of the Miami airport scene, there’s Virgin Chairman Sir Richard Branson getting the wand in the security line (and a few seconds later it cuts to a shot of a Virgin jet landing, natch).

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I made a call over to Virgin to ask about it. They put me on with Virgin Atlantic Communications Director Paul Charles, who set up the deal. According to Charles, producer Barbara Broccoli gave him a call last May. A deal with British Airways had stalled, and she needed a plane in Prague for the airport scene (yep, Prague stands in for Miami) in 10 days. Virgin didn’t need to pay for the placement directly — just schlep the jet and crew over for three days of filming (and throw in some marketing dollars. Virgin’s doing promotional tie-ins for Casino Royale too). The producers offered to stick Branson and his son in the film for fun as thanks, according to Charles. All-told, Charles pegged the cost somewhere in the “hundreds of thousands of pounds” range.

I actually thought the flamboyant entrepreneur was a much more effective placement for Virgin anyway. Branson’s on for only a few seconds and you barely catch him, so it kind of startles you when you see it. And I’m much more likely to talk that up with friends than I would some plane flyover.



News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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