The Vow Product Placement

Toronto-based designer Ana Niculae will be rushing to see The Vow when it opens in theatres on Friday — but not for the romantic drama’s tear-jerking scenes between Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. Instead, she’ll be watching the film for her handbags.

It’s a dream opportunity for the independent designer: product placement in a major motion picture.

“I’m probably going to be screaming in the movie theatre,” said Niculae, founder of Imperfect Indulgence, a company that sells high-end, handcrafted leather accessories.

The film’s costume design team chose a cognac-coloured shoulder bag, a bright red-and-black bag with weaving and a square men’s messenger bag to be worn by the main characters in the film.

Most moviegoers are used to seeing their favourite actor downing a can of Coke or wearing the latest Louboutins on screen, but it’s not uncommon for production companies to solicit products for placement on the big screen from smaller businesses as well.

Two years ago, Niculae, 32, attended a seminar hosted by Toronto Fashion Incubator, a nonprofit organization that supports local fashion entrepreneurs. Representatives for The Vow, which was filmed in Toronto, Newmarket and Chicago, were there and put out an open call for designers to submit their work.

Niculae sent her portfolio and the costume design team responded immediately.

“They were just looking for more artistic-looking products, and that’s exactly what I offer on a regular basis,” she said, adding that one of the film’s protagonists is artistic.

Hollywood costume designers may opt for local over Louis if the product fits a character perfectly, said Jeff Greenfield, a product placement expert and co-founder of C3 Metrics, a New-York based media measurement company.

“Many times what happens is it’s not that the set designer is told, ‘Go find a handbag.’ It’s like, ‘This woman in this type of demo — she needs to be carrying something unique that’s different,’ ” he said.

Product placements in Hollywood movies exploded after a bug-eyed alien followed a trail of Reese’s Pieces to his new home in the 1982 movie E.T.

It’s a lucrative opportunity for companies looking to tap into a wider market, says Greenfield.

“You can look at this as a kind of huge branding effect,” he said. “The nice thing about product placement is that once it’s in the film, it’s there forever. So anyone who buys this movie, either because they’re a Rachel McAdams fan or they’re a fan of this film, will see the bag over and over and over again.”

There are chances to cash in through DVD sales and movie downloads from iTunes, Greenfield added. The film may also get international exposure if it’s syndicated and sold to foreign countries.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck, and in many instances, there’s a good chance all this company had to do was to supply their handbags to the production for free,” he said, adding that it’s a misconception that businesses pay to feature their products in a film.

Greenfield said Reese’s Pieces gave its then-little known candy to E.T. for free, a move that has probably made the candy company hundreds of millions of dollars since.

Niculae was paid but said she sold the bags, which have a combined retail value of $1,575, at a discounted prices,

She said she wants the exposure in The Vow to trigger an interest in her bags.

“I hope they are going to attract some attention.”

Originally appeared in The Toronto Star