James Bond's new temptress

Petite, sleek, and ready to shoot, the Sony Ericsson handset is 007's favorite accessory. And it's just one of a number of smartphones now striving for Hollywood stardom.

By Michal Lev-Ram, Business 2.0 Magazine writer-reporter

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- The James Bond seduction is about to begin, so what better time to serve up a simple guide to the secrets of finding your own 007 elan?

Step One: Order your Smirnoff martinis shaken, not stirred.

Phone-slingers: Between watching 007 brandish a gun in his trademark style, audiences will see two Sony Ericsson phones in the newest Bond flick.
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Step Two: Drive a heart-racing Aston Martin. (Note: A BMW is so Pierce Brosnan.)

Step Three: Carry a Sony Ericsson cameraphone.

Step Four: Rob a bank to pay for living so large.

Okay, that was a joke. But No. 3 wasn't - at least that's what Sony Ericsson, the joint venture between consumer electronics giant Sony (Charts) of Japan and Sweden's Ericsson (Charts), is hoping Bond wannabes will think.

Sure enough, British actor Daniel Craig can't seem to foil enemies or seduce femme fatales in the latest Bond release, "Casino Royale," without his Sony Ericsson cameraphone. In true 007 style, Craig can't even commit to one device: he trades between the K800 and K790 Cyber-shot models.

A 30-second spot is not enough

Bond is not the only Hollywood star who's suddenly become a brand-conscious gadget hound.

Russell Crowe prominently wields a Palm Treo 650 as phone, computer and camera throughout "A Good Year," released last week. Not to be outdone, Leonardo DiCaprio and his costars text message their way through last month's release of "The Departed" with Motorola phones. And Meryl Streep, the fashion diva in this summer's "The Devil Wears Prada," creates misery while toting a Motorola Razr.

Mobile phones are going to Hollywood - and the pace is picking up. Driving the trend are Hollywood studios eager to have lead characters achieve instant cool by using the latest hot gadget - and manufacturers equally anxious to get their devices in front of audiences at a time when competition is fierce and ad-skipping technologies threaten to make the 30-second spot obsolete.

"Let's face it," says Aaron Gordon, a partner with marketing firm Set Resources. "You might not be able to get James Bond to do an ad for you, but getting him to use your product in a movie - which can be ever better - is doable."

It can be a win-win on both sides: a cool character using a cool device can help drive sales for studios and device makers alike.

Product placements are forever

Product placement is big business. Companies, from Ford to Wal-Mart, will spend an estimated $3 billion in 2006 to have their brands incorporated into TV shows, movie scripts and video games around the world, according to researchers at PQ Media. In the United States alone, it was a $1.5 billion market last year - up nearly 50 percent from the year before.

The financing of product placement deals is arcane. Palm (Charts) and Apple (Charts), for instance, insist they never pay when their products make guest appearances in movies (although you can bet they carefully monitor how they're depicted). Sony Ericsson won't confirm or deny whether pays for its Bond plus, including cameo roles in 2002's "Die Another Day". A company spokesperson said only that it "typically does not pay for movie placements."

Often companies will help finance advertising and other movie promos. Samsung, for instance, once reportedly shelled out $100 million to have its products in a film - and spent millions more on marketing.

"[Product placement] is an important part of our marketing efforts," says David Pinsky, Motorola's director of entertainment marketing.

Like most companies, Motorola (Charts) won't disclose how much it spends to get its products onto movie screens. The communications giants leaves that up to UPP Entertainment Marketing, a Burbank, Calif.-based firm that specializes in helping companies manage when and how their products are used.

Rule No. 1, says Pinsky: "To make sure we're not positioned as if we're just a prop."

For your ears only

While the upside of product placement is obvious, there are risks.

Take, for example, Samsung's deal for "Matrix Reloaded." After Keanu Reeves helped turn the Nokia 8110 into a hot seller (even though it wasn't sold in the U.S.), Samsung paid a reported $100 million for its SPH-N270 to appear in the Matrix sequel. But the film disappointed Matrix fans, and Samsung passed on the third installment, "The Matrix Revolutions."

Similarly, Palm may not see a huge benefit from the Treo's cameo role in "Snakes on a Plane." The Samuel Jackson flick was projected to be a hit with movie-goers after a marketing campaign that managed to build up a lot of buzz. The movie flopped. Unlike Samsung, however, Palm didn't pay for the Treo's role.

"You do have to be careful about what products you put in which movies," says Anthony Huneycutt, director of operations at MoviePlacement.com. "Sometimes the device just really fits the characters. [But] there is such a thing as negative placement."

Another potential drawback: timing. A product that a company was marketing heavily when a movie opportunity arose may not be the same product the company is hawking by the time the movie comes out.

For instance, Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" started filming in 2004 - around the same time that Motorola released its v600 and v710 models, both of which have starring roles in the crime thriller. But cell phones especially have incredibly short life spans given there's always a new hot model in the works. Today, Motorola is hyping the its sleek Moto Q - not the v600 or V710.

The Sony Ericsson K800 and K790 came out nine months ago - adulthood in mobile phone years. To keep the models fresh to consumers, Sony Ericsson will sell special-edition silver versions of both models for a limited time.

Whether "Casino Royale" hits or misses at the box office may not make much of a difference for Sony Ericsson. A new study from Britain's Sheffield Hallam University and Virgin Mobile found that men consider sleek, Bond-esque mobile phones to be an important status symbol - particularly when attracting the opposite sex.

With any luck for Sony, the K800 or K790 will become as iconically James Bond as martinis and Aston Martins.

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