Sex, Brands, and the City: Mixing Movies And Products

Sex and The the City
Sex and The the City

"Sex and the City" doesn't open for another week, but women are already buying up huge blocks of tickets online-- making the film's debut into a big, female-bonding event.

By all measures, this movie, from Time Warner's New Line Cinema, promises to be huge with the female demographic that so loyally watched the HBO series for six seasons.

It's that die-hard female fan base that's attracted huge brands to partner with the film, and earned it the nickname usually reserved for the Oscars: the Super Bowl for women.

The "Sex and the City" series launched nation-wide trends from cupcakes to Cosmos, making brands like Manolo Blahik household names. It's exactly that kind of glamorous high-profile exposure that the movie's partners are looking for now. Mercedes, Skky Vodka, Bag, Borrow, or Steal, a handbag and jewelry rental site, H. Stern, and Coca Cola's Glaceau Vitaminwater all jumping on board.

The movie's producer, John Melfi, told me that no money exchanged hands but products from these companies, plus tons of outfits and jewelry lent by designers saved millions and millions of dollars. The budget of this movie is an estimated 65 million, so with an estimated four million plus in borrowed clothes and jewelry alone, the producers made the most of their budget.

The key about good product placement is that it shouldn't be obvious. Melfi told me that they key thing about this kind of movie is, the more authentic every detail, the more real it feels. They wanted to use Vogue, not some generic fashion magazine name, and real Louis Vuitton, which means striking some deals.

And then there's the movie's relationship with a brand like Mercedes, which is eager to reach the movie's audience. Not only are the Samantha and Mr. Big characters driving around in Benzes, but for the production Mercedes built its giant fashion week tent, so it could sponsor New York's fashion week in the movie as it does in real life.

Glaceau's Vitaminwater (owned by Coca Cola) takes a different approach. The "Sex and the City" gals aren't swigging Vitaminwater's dragonfruit flavor. Instead the beverage brand introduced two limited edition flavors inspired by the movie: purple "XXX" (acai-blueberry-pomegranate) and yellow "Rescue" (green tea). The labels directly speak to the film, cracking jokes about the characters, hinting that they'd benefit from the drinks. This is certainly a step beyond traditional product placement, integrating the movie into a real life product.

All these brands want be associated with the movie to seem glamorous and an authentic part of the characters' lives. So the strategy will only work for the film and the brands if it's really subtle. It's cool to see real designer clothes months before they hit the runway.

Now throngs of moviegoing women will be the judge of whether the rest of the products are authentic and inspiring, or seem a bit too planned. I for one am dying to see the film. And I'm certainly the target demographic.

Questions? Comments?