Is James Bond still good for brands?

LONDON - 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?

Bond...Quantum of Solace
Bond...Quantum of Solace

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."