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How This Paparazzi Agency Turned Movie Product Placement On Its Head


Princess Diana filmThe upcoming Princess Diana movie "Diana," starring Naomi Watts, is doing things a bit differently during production.

While the film's plot focuses on the People's Princess's final years under siege by celebrity photographers, the film, for the first time in Hollywood history, struck an exclusive deal with Splash News & Picture Agency to give it access to the best photo angles while filming overseas.

Instead of paparazzi clamoring for a shot of a swimsuit-clad Watts in costume as Diana on Dodi Fayed's yacht, the film's producers agreed to give Splash special access to the set.

We spoke to Gary Morgan, CEO of Splash Media, about the new model for photography on film sets and how it can make or break a movie. He told us:

"Traditionally, the production company will hire an on-set photographer. And that photographer will take pictures that they want to release over time for the production, to draw attention to it. And they will then take these pictures and give it to a PR company who will then place that picture in what they think are high traffic or important magazines or newspapers. These PR companies are usually territory-based and don't deal with a mass audience on a day-to-day basis. They'll deal with the top-tier, like People magazine, or Entertainment Tonight, or someone like that."

"What's different here is that Splash, over 20 years, has grown a distribution network that's probably the biggest in the news field. We press a button and it goes to different countries. Our distribution gives us elite access to platform media: TV, print, newspaper, websites, apps, mobile. Interactions all with one push. We told them what shots will appeal to the media, and more importantly, the consumers on the web. We know by looking at search trends exactly what the consumers are looking for and the data -- and if it will make or break a movie. A picture we pick we can make into a banner, that way people can see the likeness straight away. So once you establish that, you then maintain it in the shots and we will then distribute it to other news systems. Now as the production carried on, we started giving out pictures mainly around matching iconic shots of Diana with shots they were shooting."

Morgan refused to reveal the financials of the deal, but we also spoke with Mark Owens, svp of Corbis Entertainment (Splash's parent company), who did say "We're not looking at the kind of thing you are getting with the first baby picture, which is a different model." (INSERT AN EXAMPLE OF PRICING IN HERE)

But not only does immediate access to photos from film sets help create buzz for movies, it also benefits brands who are paying to be featured in the films.

In this case, "We can help them with the brands 'Diana' really needs to associate with, such as Dior," explains Owens. "In the 'Diana' movie, she carries a bag full of Dior things, and she has Tod's shoes that she frequently wore, she has a Polo outfitter, too. The brands get the opportunity to see that product in media."

"So we have to partner and help get the brands that Diana was a fan of to make the movie as authentic as possible," Owens adds. "That was our first assignment. And as part of that assignment, the conversation came up that we talked with Splash about the different ways to maximize both the brand exposure and the excitement of that first real picture of what Diana was going to look like in the film."

Owens adds that the new photography model allows instant gratification for teh brands paying to be a part of the films, explaining:

"When you think about product integration, the brands pay the production to be in the movie, which many brands do. They don't see their work for 12-18 months. A script they read today, October 2012, is probably coming December 2013. So they've made their investment and they've gotten excited about being involved in the movie, but they don't see the results on the big screen for 15 months With this, they are able to see in social media, in formal media, all websites that carry the picture, their brand involvement in hundreds of millions of more impressions than they would ever get from just the theatrical, and then followed up by DVD, and screening, and syndication release, etc. From a brand standpoint there is value to it that I think what I would rather comfortably say is one day I think this will be worth it to the brand field and therefore will to lucrative to production from a brand standpoint."

Splash CEO Gary Morgan agrees, saying of his new model, "it's where paparazzi meets the art."

SEE ALSO: The "Iron Man 3" trailer feels way too similar to "The Dark Knight" trilogy >

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