EP 248: Why Product Placement Works As A Marketing Strategy For FLIR with Vatche Arabian | FLIR Systems

In this episode, Stacy interviews Hollywood Branded client point Vatche Arabian, Director of Content Marketing at FLIR Systems on why product placement in TV, Film and Music and branded content with Influencers, works as a core marketing strategy for FLIR thermal cameras.

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Speaker 1 (00:09):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.Stacy Jones (00:14):
I’m delighted to be here today with you all. I want to give a very warm welcome to Vatche Arabian, who is joining us from Portland Oregon area on behalf of FLIR Systems, to speak about their product placement program. For a little background, FLIR is the world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of thermal imaging infrared cameras, offering a wide range of products tailored to government and defense, public safety and transportation, security, industrial applications, professional tools, marine, home and outdoor. Product lines that range from hundreds to millions of dollars.Stacy Jones (00:44):
Vatche has been with FLIR for the last 11 years and is currently their senior manager strategic communications, where he specializes in social brand strategy, content creation, community management and channel development. He’s made some major growth happen with FLIR social audiences, driving follower and engagement by over 300% and growing their video content organic watch time by 178%. His work at FLIR has led him to be recognized by Oregon Business and placed on their list of social media superstars.

Stacy Jones (01:13):
Vatche also has a love of the entertainment industry in general, and is the founder and editor of the lonelyreviewer.com, a very successful entertainment review blog covering new and previously released films and TV shows. But the real reason I brought him on to our Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them podcast today is that Vatche manages FLIR’s branded content and product placement strategy, working with influencers, media, and film and TV content producers to incorporate FLIR products and messaging. We are the lucky agency to get to work with him, as he’s our current primary client point for FLIR’s product placement program, which Hollywood Branded has been building and working on with FLIR now for going on six years.

Stacy Jones (01:47):
Vatche is the guy who gets to deal with the mayhem of last minute production needs, logistics of coordinating a team of FLIR engineers and cameramen to different shoots, and the one who gets to figure out how to share all the fantastic product placement exposure wins with both these co workers and team of FLIR, as well as with FLIR’s core business and consumer markets around the world.

Stacy Jones (02:05):
I wanted Vatche to join our Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them podcast today to specifically talk about FLIR’s powerhouse of a product placement program, and glean some additional information on what his advice is for companies and brand managers who are interested in leveraging this fantastic marketing practice for their own brands. Vatche and his team have been incredibly instrumental in obtaining the product placement exposure the brand’s receive, and there’s a lot involved to not only crafting such a program, but also keeping internal teams motivated and in the loop of what the benefits are and getting enough inventory available to make a product placement program successful.

Stacy Jones (02:37):
We’ll learn today. What has worked, what maybe could be avoided if you’re doing this yourself, and where other brands are missing the mark in this awesome world of entertainment marketing we all live in. Vatche, welcome.

Vatche Arabian (02:48):
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Stacy Jones (02:50):
You are very welcome. So happy to have you here today. You’ve been working in and then overseeing the product placement program at FLIR for the last several years, and it’s a job that really actually, to me, seems custom made for you based on your love of entertainment industry. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background, how long you’ve been at FLIR and how you transitioned over and became involved with product placement specifically?

Vatche Arabian (03:14):
Yeah, it’s funny. Like you said, I do feel strangely built for doing this for FLIR. My background is actually film production. I went to school for it. I actually worked in the industry very early on in my career, starting right in the trenches as a PA. My first job right out of college was actually working on the departed in Boston, Massachusetts, so it was really amazing exposure and I got to look into that fast-paced production world. But my training was of a filmmaker and I wanted to do that on my own, and I moved into doing corporate video production, actually for a company that FLIR ended up acquiring a couple years later.

Vatche Arabian (04:03):
From then on I was the go to whenever these opportunities popped up, piecemeal of having to run some of our thermal cameras, actually in more news back back in those days. The news would want to want to tell or do some storytelling what a thermal camera, and I was able to speak the language and I kind of understood what they’re going for. As FLIR grew and our goals changed, that we wanted to get even more exposure. I think that was when we entered in a relationship with you guys, because we were getting a lot of these requests. And part of it was it’s kind of tough when you’re getting hit and bombarded with these requests of who to go for, who to not go for, and then really how to negotiate expanding that opportunity.

Vatche Arabian (04:55):
Anyway, so I got involved because I was able to speak both those languages, the production language and the FLIR language, the technical side, so I’ve been doing that ever since.

Stacy Jones (05:08):
Well that is a really specific language to be able to speak and it’s something that our team tries to do but it’s like its own language within languages to be able to explain production and corporate, and build that bridge so that all can meet in the middle.

Vatche Arabian (05:27):
Yeah. No, it’s our technology’s pretty complicated. There’s a lot of different options. A lot of times these productions will come to you guys with wanting to achieve something, but not fully understanding either the complexity of achieving that or even how to achieve that. I think that’s where you guys loop me in and then we have a discussion on, “All right, they asked for this, but really this works out a lot better to do what they’re trying to do,” that kind of stuff. But yeah, it’s definitely interesting each opportunity is its own puzzle

Stacy Jones (06:01):
Then there’s a little movie magic that sometimes happens behind the scenes, where reality is a little fictionalized in some instances.

Vatche Arabian (06:11):
Yes, that’s very true. Yeah, there’s a lot of misconceptions about technology in because of that movie magic, and sometimes explaining that to people is pretty funny because, “I thought it could see through walls.” Well, it can’t technically see through walls. Yeah, that that happens all the time.

Stacy Jones (06:36):
What are some of the biggest successes you’ve seen in the years since you began working with FLIR for your product placement initiatives in general?

Vatche Arabian (06:45):
I think it’s funny because some of the stuff that comes out of left field, that you’re not near, because there’ll be times where we’re sort of trudging along and we get all these requests, and there’s I think the crazy last minute one send up always being the most, I think, the ones that we seem to get the biggest lift out of for.

Vatche Arabian (07:06):
For example, when Jared Leto approach us with 30 Seconds to Mars because they wanted to do their entire VMAs performance in 2017 with several cameras, we had maybe a week and a half notice for that one, and then that in itself, with trying to realize what they were trying to do and find the best way to do that with that amount of time was with terrifying. But then the end result was amazing. I think that that was one of the biggest successes.

Vatche Arabian (07:43):
I think the Sicario Two integration we did was really interesting, and that was a that was a movie that I think that was three years ago, it just came out this year, where there was a lot of negotiating back and forth. It was the biggest ask I think, or one of the biggest asks we’d had, where we actually installed one of our gimbal cameras into their helicopter, so it was used onscreen and it was used as a functional camera to capture imagery. That was really amazing. We had move mountains to just even do that one, and I think the payoff was amazing. The whole movie opens with our camera and our name out there, and we had a great behind the scenes piece come out of that too. I think that was a really good recent success.

Vatche Arabian (08:28):
Rampage as well. That was another first where we actually flew. We have a helicopter that we use for demos, and we actually flew that down and shot with our gimbal camera for a big sequence in that film. I think those three in the last year and a half have been the absolute biggest. I feel like every year we get something where think Oh no, that’s [inaudible 00:08:52]. It’s not going to get cooler than that, and then something comes up or someone comes to us wanting to do something really unique that we hadn’t seen before. It pushes us out of our comfort zone sometimes to,

Stacy Jones (09:08):
Well, I think also with each success, it gives demonstratable material to be able to show to other producers and directors, of what the potentials of working with FLIR are, and so they’re willing and interested in taking it to the next level because you guys have invested so much time, energy into working with Hollywood. The wins keep on coming because your name has become even more familiar to those key decision makers, and the technology and the cool things that can be done are becoming more familiarized as well.

Vatche Arabian (09:42):
Definitely. Definitely. I think the funny thing too is we’re open to up and coming filmmakers too. Once in a while, we’ll get a request from some small team or small group that really has their act together, and this was a really good example of this, was working with Ryan stack who’s a music video director. His music video is one of the one of the most viewed pieces of thermal content that’s on the internet, was for the song My Love, and he was an up and coming act that didn’t really have a whole lot lot under his belt, reached out to us, I think that came through directly, and you know he was sort of moving around in the dark not knowing what what you’d be able to get. We accommodated and got him the gear, gave him a little bit support and boom, turned around to be amazing music video.

Vatche Arabian (10:36):
Now that guy’s, he’s working, he just did a video for Charli XCX and all these really big acts, and he’s someone we still have a good relationship with. That kind of stuff happens too you can’t really plan on that.

Stacy Jones (10:50):

Vatche Arabian (10:50):
It’s really interesting.

Stacy Jones (10:52):
He loved working with you guys so much that when we had the opportunity to share a piece with the Directors Guild during an event they were holding, he actually recorded footage and gave a testimonial, and talked about how he utilized FLIR within that music video, which is really cool to be able to have.

Vatche Arabian (11:10):
Yeah. You never know. Any of these requests, you never know where it’s going to go. I don’t think anyone would have guessed where that was going to go, so it was really awesome to see.

Stacy Jones (11:21):
Beyond the most exciting projects, what have been some of the larger challenges? I’m assuming that often has to be with determining how to actually get a gimbal with the camera strapped on to the belly of a helicopter during production, but other challenges as well. What have you been facing with product placement with that?

Vatche Arabian (11:44):
I think there’s a couple challenges. I think a lot of folks will approach us, and I’m still surprised with the amount of information that’s out there on our technology, when we tell them some of the resolutions of the cameras that are available, people are still shocked like, “Wait a minute, the camera that goes on the gimbal is is only 640 by 480 resolution.” That’s actually, I think, up to three, four years ago, a camera that small, that high resolution, was the highest resolution, one of the highest resolution cameras at all. It’s only recently where we’re getting down to uncool, smaller sizes that are nearly HD resolution.

Vatche Arabian (12:20):
The education side for us is, I think, a challenge because oftentimes, when they’re trying to integrate it, it’s usually to film something, so being able to get them to understand and then be onboard, because a lot of these folks are [inaudible 00:12:34], shooting 4k they’re shooting 6K, they’re shooting 8K, then they go, “Whoa, your resolution is 640 by 480? That’s lower than NTSC resolution.” That’s a challenge. Explaining to them that if you want to achieve that, that is what they are, then it starts there.

Vatche Arabian (12:56):
Then depending on what they’re trying to do, there’s a really good example of a challenge we had with some stuff we did with 30 Seconds to Mars, where they were having trouble because they had this vision of they wanted a chorus behind the performers, but the problem was the performers collectively we’re, because it was this big mass of people behind the artists, it was kind of blowing out the image. T image was just filled with people. How do you make you know Jared, the lead singer, stand out? Well they came up with a clever solution of covering everyone with sheer plastic head covers, so it knocked down how hot they were in the background, and then they actually sewed in flaxseed, into the vest that he was wearing, and microwave it before our production, and that’s what he’s actually wearing, which is hilarious because when you hear what it actually is it’s funny, but in the image he pops because he’s he’s just lit up by the thing. You don’t really understand why or how, and that was something we had to figure out. I think the day before, we finally figured out that, how to do it, so this challenges like that.

Vatche Arabian (14:06):
Then there’s other challenges too, like sometimes with the gimbal camera, the gimbal camera is limited as far as color palettes go, and if a filmmaker wanted to use a particular colored palette, it’s not really available on those cameras. Sometimes the filmmakers have to make concessions because of the technology, so that’s happened before as well. Again, it’s just education. People understanding what it’s capable of.

Stacy Jones (14:33):
Sure. Well how big is your team in-house to support this program? FLIR Systems is gigantic. You guys are a humongous company, but as far as your marketing team and your product placement team, and those who work on influencers, how many of them are there?

Vatche Arabian (14:55):
I would say three to four. Yeah, we’re pretty small. We wear a lot of hats as a team, and while I’m the point of contact, we definitely have the help of everyone that’s on the communications team to get products where it needs to go, and also coordinate with some of the specific product verticals to get gear. Some of that is also convincing people that hey, the sales asset, we really need it because this is a really, really good opportunity. Kind of like Ozark. Actually, that was a really good example of something like that, where we moved [inaudible 00:15:39], or we moved mountains to get a demo unit out, and that ended up being like probably the best mentioned in any program we’ve ever had. It was a complete plot line around our camera.

Stacy Jones (15:51):
Yeah. Ozark was a complete second storyline, where you had two characters who were challenged by a third to go steal one of the FLIR units on a boat, and off they trekked for the entire episode, on their mission to do so, which was-

Vatche Arabian (16:10):
That one was, yeah, it was challenging too just given that that was the plot. There were some concerns like do we really want our product to be something that people steal? Talking that out and then getting the sales team onboard to actually build a dummy unit, because that was a dummy unit, but it still had to be assembled, so taking time off from doing something else to do that, so there’s those kind of challenges as well.

Vatche Arabian (16:37):
But so everyone gets together and pulls whatever strings they can on the communications team. outside of the communications team as well, just to make some of these happened, because I would say none of our products are mass produced products, they’re all kind of built as they’re needed. It’s not like we have those maritime units, hundreds of them sitting on a shelf. Then the assets that we have are typically used for demos, so being able to allocate that stuff quickly because sometimes Hollywood moves faster than you can, than we can, but I think we’ve pulled it together. I don’t think we’ve missed very many opportunities, which speaks volumes about the personalities at FLIR [inaudible 00:17:24].

Stacy Jones (17:25):
No, your team’s fantastic. You all really do jump to a lot of hoops in order to make things happen. Now that we’ve talked about size and the fact that you have three or four people on your entire communications team doing not just product placement, but all of your marketing initiatives, why does a company like FLIR need a product placement agency like Hollywood Branded, versus do it all yourself in-house plan?

Vatche Arabian (17:50):
I think executing on this stuff is really challenging. I think it allows us to scale. Because with any of our products, we do things like bailment agreements, we have to track the ROI on stuff, we have to track if the placement, if it happens the way that they said it was going to happen, all that good stuff. It’s time consuming, and unfortunately, we, our communications team, I’m in charge of social media for FLIR as well, I’ve produced a lot of content internally that we’re making, we’ve got folks that are PR coordinators, PR managers that are pitching press and going to meetings about our product, we got all this stuff going on, so then adding any product placement and tracking and execution, all that on top of that, is really hard.

Vatche Arabian (18:44):
we’re able to shift that and really lean on Hollywood Branded to really own the back and forth because I’ve counted some of the emails on the ones that we hadn’t kicked over Hollywood branded, and it’ll be 45 emails back and forth, because productions can be really needy and they need that quick response time. Sometimes we’re traveling or we’re on other assignments, and being able to lean on you guys to help us with that is extremely important.

Vatche Arabian (19:19):
The other important factor too is you guys can be the bad guys for us, if we need to be the bad guys and hold people accountable to what they promise. It really helps to have you with all that experience in that world, versus us.

Stacy Jones (19:35):
Sure. Our team is great at pushing those buttons and asking for more and more and more and more, and we can be bad the guys and it’s great. We often have you included in email communications, so that we can play off each other a little bit in that way, which works out really well.

Vatche Arabian (19:54):
Yeah, because sometimes productions will try to play to our … Because it’s easy to get caught up in it’s Oh, it’s the movies or it’s TV and it’s an awesome show, and it’s big actor, and they play to that, I think, sometimes, just to try to, “We don’t need anything on contract, let’s just do it.” I’m not calling out a specific production by any means, but that kind of stuff does happen. It happened in the past. Again, having you guys where you can spot those kind of things, and again, it’s the accountability thing. You really help these relationships, A continue and B, be accountable.

Vatche Arabian (20:35):
You help us filter out some of the stuff that’s not really worth our time either, because that happens too. You’ll get you’ll get stuff that all right, the ROI isn’t there, no one’s really going to see this piece of content or whatever it is, because again, I think we get a lot of incoming requests, and it’s really sometimes hard to see those red flags, especially when you’re just trying to get stuff done.

Stacy Jones (21:01):
Sure. Well, I’m glad we’re needed. That is fantastic. How do you get other brand managers and various FLIR divisions on board? They’re doing their jobs, they’re intent on sales, they’re intent on whatever their core day-to-day is, and when you tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I need you to actually help. Stop everything and help create this dummy product for this TV show like Ozark,” right?

Vatche Arabian (21:33):

Stacy Jones (21:33):
How you actually convince people? Is it difficult to sell them the opportunities when they’re not that concerned about the entertainment efforts, or how do you get them to see the value?

Vatche Arabian (21:45):
I think it’s funny because at the end result, everyone sees the value. Everyone’s like, “Wow, that was such an amazing placement.” I got probably hundreds of emails, maybe not hundreds, maybe 100, I’ll say 100. That could be hyperbole. I’m not going to actually count, but I got a ton of emails of people saying, “Wow, that was such an amazing placement. How much did that cost?” We had so many questions about it, and was funny because everyone loves that end result, everyone loves it, but getting there is challenging because we’ve gotten the everyday needs that we have.

Vatche Arabian (22:22):
I think it’s different for every single product or director of marketing for each vertical, because they’ve they’ve all got their goals like you said, so really looking at the opportunity, I can tell Okay, this one is going to be tough because it’s a bunch of products that we don’t already have in our demo inventory, so you know, we really, really have to up the value to get to get folks onboard. Because that upfront cost of having to take that inventory out of stock, all that, those are challenges, so explaining to them, “Look, check this out. Look what happened when we did something similar like this with this group. Now these guys want this group and this is what the return is going to be. I really think it’s worth it and it tells the bigger FLIR brand story.” Just convincing people in that way.

Vatche Arabian (23:18):
But I think a lot, at this point, we’ve been doing it so long, I would say everyone’s pretty much on board with most, and people are pretty accommodating. It’s also presenting an alternative way to talk about FLIR in new and exciting ways, that aren’t there aren’t the old. It’s not print media, it’s not even like a cheesy commercial on it 2:00am, this is very, very different than that, and I think the cost of entry, because our products are really desirable and high price type ticket items, we can negotiate for lot more. I think that’s something that people see the benefit of. But I think it took some time, but I would say people really are a lot more open to moving mountains to make cool things happen.

Stacy Jones (24:14):
You typically work with them to try to get a set amount of inventory from each of the divisions that’s participating with product placement, or is it more so that when we’re coming to you, or versus the inventory we have in, but when we’re trying to add to it, is it still more than one off?

Vatche Arabian (24:34):
Well yeah, it’s kind of tough for some of the product verticals, especially given we do have, to sell products of the end of the day, and these aren’t, like I said earlier, not super high volume. I think we lean pretty hard on sales assets, so getting assets that are technically demos, built to demo our product that trade shows and stuff, to take those out of that circulation and have them store down in your facility, or as they come up, pull them and then get back into circulation. That’s how we’ve gotten around that, but there is some inventory, like some of the cameras that are most commonly requested like the 21K I think, Myth Busters and Nat Geo, and all these different groups that love that camera because of its portability, and it’s HD and it’s quiet and it’s a nice package. We’ve got inventory that we’ve purchased, that is permanent and lives with [inaudible 00:25:38] as a loaner camera, so those ones, I think, we’ve been allocated.

Vatche Arabian (25:42):
But I’m always surprised. We had that request from Chicago PD I believe, wanted one of our detection products, and that’s one that we don’t have been an inventory for a demo because they had never come up before, but we were able to get one. I think that one, we actually we bought a special and just that ,that we now use as a learning unit for that stuff.

Vatche Arabian (26:08):
Yeah, I think a lot of it comes up piecemeal unfortunately, because again, it’s convincing that marketing manager or marketing director to make that investment into having that asset for these specific purposes.

Stacy Jones (26:22):
Well, and productions are very savvy with Google, It’s amazing sometimes, with all the different companies that FLIR has bought over the years and different product lines that have been introduced, that haven’t been necessarily the mainstay of their product placement program, what they can actually find ask for.

Vatche Arabian (26:42):
Yeah. We’ve had we’ve had people ask for a really funny stuff. Stuff that that is on our website, but it’s really for … Some of it is relevant at some of these military shows, but they’ll ask for some really, really crazy cameras and those ones are always the hardest to get, just because the inventory’s low and they’re heavily regulated, controlled cameras. It really depends on where the camera’s going, who needs it and when.

Vatche Arabian (27:16):
There’s one, I’m hoping that we can find a good spot for it in some place, the Black Hornet. That’s come up a couple times and that’s a really cool little piece of technology that I know we’ve had some requests for, but we haven’t found a good spot specific for it. Now I’m just rambling on about our cool stuff.

Stacy Jones (27:38):
Now you guys have a lot of cool stuff, and they’ll definitely be outcome for the Black Hornet, and it has to be a very worthy production partner to get that.

Vatche Arabian (27:48):
Oh yeah. That’s a cool product that’s being used by the US Army and Australian Army. It’s really, really high tech. It looks like a little helicopter toy, but it is much more sophisticated than that. I think our biggest posts we’ve had we’ve had on social media this year was actually the the Black Hornet just simply taking off. That’s really funny, and it was just shot on iPhone. It wasn’t even anything sophisticated, but it was our most liked post

Stacy Jones (28:17):
Well, it looks like a toy, that’s why.

Vatche Arabian (28:20):

Stacy Jones (28:23):
What are some of the challenges that come from product placement and FLIR technology? You’ve touched on them a bit, with sourcing potentially, but there are certain issues that our listeners have absolutely no idea about, like export regulations and technical experience, and using equipment. We can’t just send out cameras necessarily, to a production, without having someone knowing how to use them, to go with them, or figuring out some massive, let’s just say hoops again, to jump through with customs export issues and things along those lines.

Vatche Arabian (28:59):
Yeah. A lot of our products are governed by ITAR regulation, which there’s specific countries they can’t travel to. If they do travel out of the country, there’s very specific rules and regulations on where, and who’s handling them and how they’re being used. That always creates a challenge because sometimes these films or TV productions are trying to take the gear to really interesting places, and sometimes those are places that our cameras can go. Being able to make sure that we’re in compliance with the law, it is the most important thing as far as we’re concerned for that placement.

Vatche Arabian (29:42):
That does create challenges, and sometimes I think we’ve had to provide maybe different products than what they’ve been asking, or even some sort of work around where productions have actually filmed the scenes that they’re going to be using this product in the US rather than outside of the US, so there’s little workarounds like that, that we’ve come up with. But it is a continuing challenge.

Vatche Arabian (30:04):
Again, there’s that education thing. There are a lot of people that just don’t understand why they can’t just throw it in a box next to all the GoPros and just ship it, because it just doesn’t work that way for a lot of our gear. It’s important to be legally compliant with the rules and regulation.

Stacy Jones (30:24):
Yeah. Then you also have the technical issues, where some of the science cameras and so forth, really actually need someone who knows how to use them versus just saying to even a very experienced cameraman on set, “Go at it.”

Vatche Arabian (30:39):
Yeah. Oh yeah. No, these cameras are not pick up and play, and I would argue that most movie cameras aren’t, but our cameras are even more complicated because they’re not really designed by people who usually think they’re going to be used on a movie set. They’re designed for research and development, to be used for very, very specific applications.

Vatche Arabian (31:01):
It can be a Frankenstein project to figure out the best way to integrate it for different productions, and it was interesting, in the Walk on water Production, The 30 Seconds to Mars performance, the way that that was done, we actually worked with a partner of ours MoviTHERM, that helped build custom software because one of the things that the team wanted to achieve was they wanted to tweak the image and make sure it looked exactly the way that they envisioned. What we actually had to do is we networked the cameras to a control room, we had actual camera operators, like MTV approved guys that are using the regular cameras, have a little bit of time with the cameras and rig them out and make them easy to use and ready to go for what they need to do on stage, and then we were in the back with or four cameras, each one of us on a laptop, tweaking the image live.

Vatche Arabian (32:00):
There were a couple of temperature changes where Jared removed a mask, and if we didn’t compensate for that change, he was going to be blown out and it wasn’t going to be what he wanted, so we had to do that stuff live.

Vatche Arabian (32:12):
Then a funny anecdote, during rehearsal, because again, these cameras aren’t really used to be handheld, one of the camera guys accidentally hit the power button on the camera as he was trying to focus it. The whole thing went off, and it was camera A so it was the main shot. Now the other problem is these cameras take five minutes to turn on because the camera has to come to temperature, so that terrifying as a filmmaker for a live event. Again, challenges, and we put a cap over that thing so wouldn’t be accidentally pressed. We figured it out, but we’re glad that happened in rehearsal and not during the live broadcast. But anyway, yeah, it’s been interesting. A science project every time.

Stacy Jones (33:06):
Well these are the things that you learn so that the next time it doesn’t happen.

Vatche Arabian (33:10):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stacy Jones (33:14):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). With all of these, and we’ve talked about TV shows like Ozark, we’ve talked about Rampage, we’ve talked about with feature films, we’ve talked about music videos, which do you think is a bigger win, and where do you Where do you think the best opportunities are from a brand side? With TV, SVoD, feature film or music videos?

Vatche Arabian (33:41):
There’s a couple answers to this. I think it just depends on your viewpoint, and I think I, because my time at FLIR and my interest in technology, I’m always impressed by people who try to do unique things that have never been done before with thermal more than anything. There has been more than music video space, I would say, than anything.

Vatche Arabian (34:07):
The first time I saw the camera on a steady cam was the music video, the My Love music video, and that was my blew my mind. That was just so cool. Then the live performance for walk on water, that also blew my mind. These are cameras that typically aren’t used that way. That, I think just from a cutting edge standpoint, I think the music videos. I think from just an awareness standpoint, like helping that unaided awareness, the tele, I’m sorry, the film stuff has been really good because I feel like we see a lot of chatter, both from fans and non-fans, the people who aren’t actively engaged with our gear, talking about it on social media. Some of these on demand video shows, like a Netflix, that one was huge, but the Ozark one, I think probably was the most chatter I’d ever seen on any integration at all, which is really, really cool.

Stacy Jones (35:13):
Well Netflix is getting that too. We’re seeing so much more social engagement on Netflix and Amazon shows than you do even on TV right now, so it’s interesting.

Vatche Arabian (35:24):
Its amazing, yeah. It is very interesting. We definitely see what pops up on NCIS or one of those shows, but we see a lift there to on social, but for whatever reason, and maybe it’s just been you know how good that placement was, it’s probably part of it, that is why we’ve seen that lift on some of the Netflix stuff. I left off The Haunting of Hill House. That was another good one we got a bunch of tweets on, but nothing beats the Ozark close-ups I would say.

Stacy Jones (35:56):
Well, for the listeners who don’t know though, what listeners need to understand, we’ve talked about all these government usages and military usage, and marine usage, what you don’t know is a lot of people use FLIR for paranormal activity as well.

Vatche Arabian (36:19):
Oh yeah. How could we leave that? I completely skirted over that. Not on purpose.

Stacy Jones (36:19):
Right. Well we work with so many finding the Yeti, finding Bigfoot, finding ghosts, finding whatever it might be, because FLIR can magically find all of that as the heat differentials. Spirits and apparitions stand out in a room, right Vatche?

Vatche Arabian (36:38):
Yeah, exactly. I’ve confirmed it. No, what I’ll say about that too is, and the two things people immediately associate any thermal imaging for is the predator film, that original movie that I would say really put predator vision and thermal vision on like the tip of people’s pop culture tongue if you will, and then ghost hunting. Those are the two, predator vision and ghost hunting, that’s what people think of when they see that, the technology.

Vatche Arabian (37:16):
Fun fact, that [inaudible 00:37:18] in 1987, in the original Arnold Schwarzenegger Predator film we have that exact camera with us.

Stacy Jones (37:26):
Product placement last through the years.

Vatche Arabian (37:29):
Speaking of challenges, that was a challenge because the jungle was actually the same temperature as the actor, so it actually make contrast really, really hard. They had to do some funky stuff and post to make it look right, so it’s heavily, heavily edited, but they did actually use, it was an info metrics thermo vision, or infer metrics 530 was that camera [inaudible 00:37:56]. That was the actual camera. We’ll actually have that camera on display at CES, So if anyone wants to see it, it’ll be there.

Stacy Jones (38:07):
Fantastic. That is this January in Las Vegas.

Vatche Arabian (38:12):
I don’t know when this podcast is going out, so I apologize for doing this.

Stacy Jones (38:15):
No. This is releasing the week before, so we are all good.

Vatche Arabian (38:18):
Oh perfect. All right, perfect. I plugged that perfect.

Stacy Jones (38:23):
Great plug. When do you think it’s beneficial to allow production contact to ask, because they do ask, if they can keep a camera that’s lent to them, and how do you go through deciding whether or not that is worth it? Besides, of course, the actual cost of the camera, since some could be couple of hundred dollars, some could be 20,000, 50,000, 150,000, so quite significant.

Vatche Arabian (38:53):
Yeah, I think probably the stuff, the scripted stuff, I feel like if they had no working props, that would probably be okay, but just leaving them with inventory, because the stuff is in high demand or we don’t have a whole lot of it, I’d sure shy away from that. But it’s the folks like the Myth Busters style reality shows where if they have it, they’re going to probably use it more. There’ll be more opportunities that come up where because it’s planned but not really, not as planned as a scripted show, or I’d like to think, I don’t know. Then content creators like YouTubers, that sort of thing, people who have a big presence online that are doing behind the scenes stuff, that are doing content that’s a lot more frequent, that is quick turnaround, that’s where it makes sense, I think, to have that gear full time.

Vatche Arabian (39:55):
I think safariLIVE, which is a great partner that we’ve found through you guys, we’ve given them a T1K, and now get this constant flow of really, really amazing imagery from them, that they’re pushing out and they’re giving us to push out as well. That’s been a really cool placement opportunity for us.

Stacy Jones (40:15):
Yeah. Well, what’s cool about them is not only is it all content being created into a TV show, but they’re doing Facebook Lives, they’re creating social posts, they’re creating behind the scenes random content, so it’s a lot of content.

Vatche Arabian (40:29):
Oh, yeah. It’s great. Those folks, yeah, and if I had my way, I’d give everyone the thermal camera [inaudible 00:40:36]. I don’t always get my way.

Stacy Jones (40:38):
You can be the FLIR thermal camera gifting Hollywood guru.

Vatche Arabian (40:44):
Yeah, exactly.

Stacy Jones (40:47):
Well one of the areas where product placement is drifting into melding with, is an area that you are taking lead on with FLIR, which is with influencers as well. How are they impacting your marketing initiatives and content creation?

Vatche Arabian (41:07):
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of, as pop culture shifts to what’s going on online with these YouTubers, it’s really fascinating. I heard from someone that their kid wanted to grow up to be a YouTube star, so it’s kind of crazy. All these personalities are online, which is fascinating. That’s who people aspire to be.

Vatche Arabian (41:31):
They’re making great stuff, so what we’ve done is I think we’ve seeded it a lot of our kind of entry level products, our FLIR ONE products specifically, to some of those YouTubers, and a lot of the science YouTubers, a lot of the educational YouTubers like Physics Girl, Vsauce, Vsauce3, Jake over there at Vsauce, and I’m trying to think of who else.

Vatche Arabian (41:58):
We gave Adam Savage FLIR ONE, that was totally random, and what’s interesting is they make some content with the FLIR ONE, but then they always want something a little nicer, obviously a little better, so we almost use the FLIR ONE as an entry point, where they’ll start to understand and grasp the concept of that, and then they figure out creatively, how they can tell a story with it. Then we work with them to realize that story. Actually Engineering Explained is another good example of that, another YouTuber, and we keep it pretty organic. We don’t want it to feel like … I think in influencer marketing, there’s a lot of just blatant placement that’s like hashtag ad and that kind of stuff, and we haven’t shied away from that We’ve tried to keep the relationship mutually beneficial and just really more about giving the YouTubers a way to tell the story they want to tell without mucking it up with, “Okay, we need you to say this, we need you to do that.”

Vatche Arabian (43:01):
It’s been interesting because I feel like it’s gotten us known in those circles, both their fans and by the other creators who use that stuff, because our goal really is to, just with all of this, is to raise awareness of the technology, make FLIR a known name when you associate it with thermal. Yeah, so that’s worked really well we’ve had some really great pieces of content that we’re also able to us on our social media channel, that we have we’ve pushed out as just regular old social content, so it’s great. Then that’s that’s tends to have a longer shelf life too because people find it down the road, GIFs and little animations pop up on Reddit, places like Reddit and stuff, that eventually make its way back to us.

Vatche Arabian (43:54):
You’ll go on these discussion forums and you’ll see these people talking about these things, and then [inaudible 00:43:59], “How to do they do this?” Then inevitably someone will link to flir.com. It’s a really long way there, but it’s pretty cool and it feels organic.

Stacy Jones (44:10):
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Vatche Arabian (44:12):
Yeah. Exactly

Stacy Jones (44:14):
Do you have any words of caution to a brand who’s considering product placement, who hasn’t really gotten their feet wet yet?

Vatche Arabian (44:22):
Oh, words of caution. I don’t know if it’s for everyone. I don’t think every product, everyone needs to get there, but I think the important thing too is to have that buy-in, to have this internal support, because this program does need support. You need to have the budget to be able to provide whatever you’re providing, so if you do it and you go, “Crap,” because all these opportunities are going to come up, and if you don’t have that whatever you’re placing ready, that’s going to be a challenge because you’re just gonna end up getting upset and you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities. You don’t want to do that.

Stacy Jones (45:10):
Those are great words of advice to a brand who’s considering product placement. How do you see product placement evolving over the years for FLIR? Over the last few years, as you talked about earlier, there’s surprise turns, surprises around every turn basically, every corner. All of a sudden you have a new feature film taking it to a new level, like Rampage or Sicario Two, but where do you see the potential for product placement growth with FLIR?

Vatche Arabian (45:42):
I think now that we’ve gotten our feet wet and we understand it, I think there’s more opportunities for more. Because we work through props, they’re providing gear, but we haven’t really done anything bigger scale or like a bigger scale sponsorship, like actually formalizing relationships with some of these guys. I think we’ve we started to get our feet wet there and I’m really excited because there’s a lot of marketing or specific marketing directors in our organization that are really excited about the opportunities that more formal relationships can lead to, or where they can go. I think that that is really exciting, looking ahead.

Vatche Arabian (46:33):
I think the YouTuber space, it’s ever evolving and it’s a space that we’ve been playing pretty hard in, and we’re going to continue to play hard in. It’s that’s the unknown. Again, people come up with new ways to use this stuff every day, and I’m always excited to hear the ways people want to use our stuff, so I think that’s going to continue to be a growing space for us.

Vatche Arabian (47:01):
The technology, the technology is getting more accessible. The cameras that enable us to film really exciting things are getting more accessible, even to us, so that’s going to present ourselves with some really good opportunities as well.

Stacy Jones (47:21):
Very cool. Where do you think, we’ve touched on it before, but where do you think the opportunities are to win big for other brands within this space?

Vatche Arabian (47:32):
I think we’ve had a lot of success connecting ourselves to other stories. The Walk on Water thing, the 30 Seconds to Mars thing, that wasn’t our story. It became our story, but it was us aligning with the goals of another bigger brand or bigger initiative, and it became mutually beneficial.

Vatche Arabian (47:55):
Finding ways to attach your brand to things that really makes sense, I think is really, really important, because you can sponsor things, you can sponsor anything you want if you want to pay for it, but if it doesn’t actually make sense is where it becomes more complicated, because you need to make sure that there’s a story you can tell there because if there’s no story, then then why is anyone going to care and why does the placement even matter?

Stacy Jones (48:22):
We also touched on this, but is any other advice you’d give a brand who was considering launching a product placement program?

Vatche Arabian (48:30):
I think don’t do it yourself. I think that going at it alone, there’s just a lot that people like Hollywood Branded that have a lot more experience in that space, can really be the guiding light to make sure you don’t spend your time on things that aren’t going to have that return. I think that that is probably the the other biggest advice I can offer. Yeah.

Stacy Jones (49:03):
It’s like I paid you to say that. That’s great, thank you. I didn’t listeners. I didn’t pay him to say that. We actually really like working with each other. Vatche, thank you so much. Really, really do you want to let you know we appreciate your time and everything that you shared today with our listeners and with me, and looking forward to the year ahead and some of the bigger partnerships that we have, that are literally waiting to be revealed right around the corner, and chatting with you and everyone at CES in just a couple of weeks. We’ll go from there.

Vatche Arabian (49:41):
Yeah. Actually, I’ve got one more piece of advice that I just thought of. I think it’s easy to say. “Okay, we’re going to do a million awesome things in a year,” and I feel like you really can count on two or three really, really great moments in the year, because there’s a lot of small ones too and it’s important not to overlook that stuff too, in this space. I think it’s easy for people to just look at those big ones and go, “Man, I didn’t land a big movie.” That kind of stuff can stick. Yeah, just looking at all wholistically is really, really important too in that, in determining the ROI.

Stacy Jones (50:26):
I think, yeah, a lot of brands, we’ll be talking to them, and they’ll be like, “Oh well, I am holding out for that big movie. I am holding out for that big win.” The thing with Hollywood is you don’t actually know when something little might actually overnight become really big.

Vatche Arabian (50:42):
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I wanted to reinforce that. I alluded to that earlier, but I just want to close [inaudible 00:50:50] too.

Stacy Jones (50:50):

Vatche Arabian (50:51):

Stacy Jones (50:51):
No, and y’all, FLIR has done a phenomenal job working with, the smaller filmmakers, the larger filmmakers, not really discrediting anyone along the way, and being able to introduce and grow with some of those filmmakers, such as Ryan you mentioned before, where you do very cool things at the beginning when someone’s eager and more independent, and a little more edgy, and as they grow into more true Hollywood positions, mind you, they’ll bring you along. The relationship’s there. This is entirely a relationship business and not a money business.

Vatche Arabian (51:31):
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. The stuff, especially with the YouTubers, the stuff that we’ve done with them has gotten better and better, and it’s because it’s a relationship. You grow with them, you support them, and it can be a gamble. You never know when someone’s going to really break becoming a huge star just based on the content they crank, so working with them and taking that gamble is not necessarily a bad thing either, so yeah,

Stacy Jones (52:03):
If nothing else, you get lots of content that you can repurpose for social media, even if it doesn’t go very far otherwise

Vatche Arabian (52:11):

Stacy Jones (52:13):
Well Vatche, again, thank you so much for joining us today, and until next time, have a fantastic day.

Vatche Arabian (52:23):
Thank you. You too.

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Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Reviews 

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Stacy does a really great job making this a highly actionable podcast for business owners. With a focus on marketing, she covers a wide range of related topics as well and is always very specific with her questions so that the listener gets pointed advice instead of vague concepts to take away. It’s also really helpful to the hear the why behind any marketing tactic so that we can decide if something sounds like a good fit for where we are at in this moment.

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I just listened to the episode named Insights To Product Placement Brand Marketers Need To Know, and I really enjoyed every minute of it! There are so many ways to approach product placement in a manner that provides wins for many – and it is not always driven by money. I am looking forward to listening to more!

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