NEW YORK -- As film and fashion become more intertwined, the money-making opportunities are set to increase exponentially. That was the big takeaway last week at the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham's fourth annual symposium, where execs from Warner Bros.,Tiffany & Co. and HBO led a panel that explored the state of licensing.
Great Gatsby costume designer Catherine Martin's partnerships with Brooks Brothers, Fogal, Prada and, most notably, Tiffany & Co. were lauded as successful initiatives that mixed product placement with licensing. "This was our most extensive collaboration with a movie studio," said Ewa Abrams, Tiffany's associate general counsel and chief privacy officer. "And it was a tremendous opportunity. Not only was the Gatsby collection sold in stores very successful, but we were also able to develop tangential relationships with the actors, so that they might wear the jewelry on the red carpet."
HBO's licensing attorney, Stacy Abiraj, said that for the premium cable channel, the main goal is raising awareness. "One of the cold hard facts is that main purchasers of licensed products are children," she said, referring to the nearly $40 billion Disney made in licensed products in 2012. "No one is going to pay $25 for an Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood poster for the office."
What novelty items do offer is a straight path to the viewer. "We are a not a direct-to-consumer company," Abiraj said."[Licensing] is predominantly an extension of our brand." That's not to say HBO hasn't had its share of hits. A $10,000, limited-edition Game of Thrones watch produced by Ulysse Nardin sold out briskly. (There were only 25 made.) As did costumer designer Patricia Field's Sex and the City-themed collaboration with Cosabella and premium denim brand Adriano Goldschmied's Entourage line.
The panel agreed that partnerships like these will only continue to increase in value for studios and brands alike -- but brands in particular have to be conscientious about how the product is presented. While the studios "never guarantee that something is going to be in the film for a period of time," according to Sandra K. Smokler, senior vp and deputy general counsel for Warner Bros., they also don’t have to ask permission to use an un-branded item. Oftentimes, products are bought right-out and the brand has no idea they’re going to be used.
"We have to be careful with our product placements," said Abrams, recalling the 1991 Harrison Ford vehicle Regarding Henry, where Tiffany did participate but was portrayed negatively in the film. (Initially, Ford plays an unsavory character whose Tiffany gift serves as a symbol of his wrongdoings.) Even iconic associations can be troublesome. "We are so tied with Breakfast at Tiffany's, and in the end, it's a film about a prostitute."