Close-Up: Live Issue - Is James Bond still good for brands?

With a huge number of ads featuring 007, have the Bond tie-ins gone too far, Kate Nettleton asks.

Would Ian Fleming's James Bond, the connoisseur of Martinis, cars and women, really have sat down to watch a high-definition TV, read The Sun or bought scratchcards? It's unlikely. Yet brands such as Sony, Camelot, Sony Ericsson, The Sun and Coke Zero, are still paying top dollar for brand associations with the film franchise, in an attempt to gain class by association with the debonair secret agent.

And the latest film, Quantum of Solace, has seen brands infiltrate Bond through product placement, and try to jump on the bandwagon beyond the cinema screen. For weeks before the film's release, TV ad breaks have been filled with Bond-themed spots.

The number of brands allowed into the film itself has been carefully limited, but there's been a proliferation of other brands going Bond-crazy. With so many companies jumping into bed with Bond, there is a fear that the franchise is being devalued and that the "official" Bond brands are struggling to achieve cut-through.

Stef Calcraft, a founding partner at Mother, says: "Scarcity equals value in life generally, and it's just been overkill this year. In the past, the associations were with premium products. But now, it seems like he's only got to blow his nose and Kleenex will be associated with it."

With Bond becoming increasingly commercially promiscuous, advertisers need to be very careful their brand fits. If the fit feels contrived, consumers will see through it and ultimately become irritated.

Peter Walshe, the global brands director at Millward Brown, explains: "Gratuitously adding a Bond theme will be seen through by the consumer. The ones that are not gratuitous, and make something of the association by creating ads that interest, surprise and delight, will work, no matter how many other Bond ads are around."

Not only do brands need to ensure a homogenous fit, and creative stand out in such an overcrowded Bond-filled media schedule, an effective media plan that ensures that your spot is not running alongside all the others is vital. "You know it's not going to be an exclusive deal, so the way you structure the message and the media plan can ensure your ad achieves cut-through," Mark Sinnock, the chief strategic officer at Fallon, explains.

But Joanne Sheehan, the manager for communications planning at Ford of Europe, feels that the filmmaker Eon Productions' approach of gathering together the sponsors before the film's production, to ensure each is targeting its own niche of consumer, is the key to the success of brand associations. "From an advertiser's perspective, it's the best-organised film franchise, it allows you to have a unique marketing policy worked out that you can build your communications on."

Sheehan admits, however, that tying-up with a film is a risk. "It's also very important that the film is good. As a brand you want to be associated with something credible," she adds.

Walshe concurs: "Our research shows the quality of the film matters. If it's a flop, then anything associated will either just disappear or get tied to something poor."

But even though Quantum of Solace has been attacked by some, others, such as Dare's Flo Heiss, believe Bond remains a commercially powerful franchise: "It doesn't matter if the film is not as good as the last, because it's Bond that the brand is associated with, not Quantum of Solace."

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PLANNER - MARK SINNOCK, chief strategic officer, Fallon

"Historically, Bond's been associated with premium products and experiences, so it's a strong and valid connection if you can make it. It's about the way that you go to market around the association. The media scheduling needs to be closely monitored and guarded because it plays a vital role in achieving cut-through.

"It's also about creating the right relevant connection and trying to find the reason why Bond would be associated with your product as much as why your product should be associated with Bond.

"I don't think there is a disadvantage in multiple commercial partners provided each partner finds a true and relevant insight."

AGENCY CHIEF - STEF CALCRAFT, founding partner, Mother

"Bond has never been paid for sex but, with Quantum of Solace, he is in danger of prostituting himself. Scarcity has a value, especially when it comes to such a unique cultural icon - a short-sighted commercial exploitation will damage one of Britain's very few remaining global consumer brands.

"The power of the films lies in their ability to help us to suspend belief. The latest tie-ups are in danger of tarnishing Bond with brands that are inappropriate. BMW was bad enough a few years ago, but Ford, Avon and Heineken signal a worrying slide into commercial expediency. If Bond is to maintain his iconic status and value, less will definitely be more, over the long term."

ANALYST - PETER WALSHE, global brands director, Millward Brown

"If your brand is going to be associated with something, you want that 'something' to be desirable. Bond gets past that first hurdle because it's a very desirable brand.

"And if you can make a connection or a fit with that, it is potentially very valuable for driving the perceptions of your brand forward. Our research shows that when you've got the fit and focus right, that can give you a very good return on investment.

"But, for the wrong brand, if there isn't a fit then that could be pretty dangerous. If it feels clumsy or contrived, it could cause irritation and detract from your brand."

CLIENT - JOANNE SHEEHAN, manager for communications planning, Ford of Europe

"For a mass brand such as Ford, it's great to associate yourself with a movie that is going to appeal to the masses and be a big box office success.

"There are no more associations this year than there were last year, but what's different this time around is that before the film was made, all the associated brands met with the film-makers and presented our plans for tie-ins and the angle we each wanted to take. We made sure that we achieved the standout that we needed.

"If you find your own target within the franchise and the brand fits well, then you absolutely still get stand out."

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