If one or more of these things don’t add up, you’re probably being scammed.
The idea of getting your products into the hands of celebrities or on the set of a TV show or movie is a pretty existing prospect. There are tons of examples out there, like Pizza Hut in Wayne’s World, Starbucks in Zoolander, and Nokia in The Matrix.
When you sell a cool popular consumer product, you’ll begin to see requests from people saying that they can do these things. “I can get you in this movie!” , “I can get you into the hands of Taylor Swift” or “I can get you in front of a big audience at an upcoming event.” Sure, many people can do this, but many others are lying to get free products.
It’s often challenging to know the difference. Here are five things to look out for:
Company email account--If they’re writing to you from a Hotmail, Outlook, or generic email, there’s a chance they aren’t from a real company or a reputable one. Do a reverse look-up on their email and see what comes up. If the email is related to multiple generic website names, that’s a big red flag.
Full Name Backgrounder — Do a reverse look-up of their full name and company name. Chances are if they’re great at work at what they do, people will be talking about them, or they’ll have something online related to their work (event photo, photo with a celebrity, etc.). For any publicity related industry, this is a red flag.
Website — What company doesn’t have a website these days? It’s impossible to do business and be trusted without one. They may say it’s currently in development or redesigned, which could be the case. Go ahead and use a tool like https://archive.org/web to see if the website ever existed. You can always ask for an ETA otherwise. No eta, no website or online reviews at all? Huge red flag.
Deck and Referrals — Companies that work with big brands know how essential marketing materials are. Decks are important for selling new ideas and getting buy-in. If they don’t have a website and won’t provide any promo materials, this is a big red flag.
An actual Movie or Event — What event are they pitching you? Is it real? Is their name, company, and email associated somehow? Is the film already in post-production? Do some due diligence to make sure it’s a real thing and equally as important, a good fit for your brand.
If one or more of these things don’t add up, it’s very likely too good to be true.
More than likely, they’ll have good or decent excuses as to why they don’t have these things. Fake special events, companies, and agents aren’t new. They’re just getting harder and harder to flush out.
But you’re in a business, not a charity. Even if you do charity, you will give free products to someone in need, instead of someone reaching looking for free stuff under a fake guise.
Product Placement is a BIG Business
99% of TV, celebrity and event placement is paid, and by no means cheap. There are outliers, but chances are it’s not going to come from a random inbound email, and is more likely to happen if you reach out to those celebrities and set producers yourself. I have done this successfully.
Scared of burning bridges?
You may think it’s better to send something than to risk losing out on an opportunity, but that’s what these kinds of scammers are betting on.
Feel free to make up an excuse rather than being blunt. Example: issue with budget allocation, bad timing, or just that you can’t move forward with pitching it internally without more information (website, deck etc). Your resources are better spent elsewhere. Trust me. I have been scammed more than once. Writing this in hopes it doesn’t happen to you.