Doug Ellin, creator and head writer of the Golden Globe-winning TV show “Entourage,” understands a thing or two about the power of connection — between people and when it comes to brands and products. “Entourage,” based on the life of actor Mark Walhberg and his buds, aired on HBO for eight seasons and spawned a movie in 2015. None of that would have happened if Ellin hadn’t taken several leaps of faith throughout his career.
During eCommerce Week LA 2021, he shared his story, along with how he leveraged celebrity partnerships and product placements to showcase specific brands on the TV show and in the feature film. Featuring equal parts inspiration, humor, and tactical knowledge, Ellin’s session is a must-see if you are seeking to spotlight your brand through celebrity partnerships.
From Tulane College to Stand-Up Comedy
Ellin, a New York native, almost went to law school to follow the footsteps of his father and brother. If he had, this story would have a different ending. Knowing his penchant for performance, his college friends hooked him up to do stand-up comedy at an open mic night. Immediately after graduating from Tulane College with a liberal arts degree, Ellin moved to Los Angeles to pursue a stand-up career.
While working in the mailroom at New Line Cinemas, he invited coworkers — including then-president of production Michael De Luca — to watch him perform. Ellin’s goal was to raise money to produce an independent film.
“Mike De Luca, who is now an Oscar-winning producer, gave me $10,000 out of his own pocket to make a short film,” Ellin recalls on an episode of the “HawkeTalk” podcast. “It starred people I met around town when I was 22, including a pre-‘Friends’ David Schwimmer, Ernie Hudson from ‘Ghostbusters,’ Helen Martin and Johnny Silverman.”
The movie was picked up by Showtime and, encouraged, Ellin attended the American Film Institute for one year. He got out to make another indy film, this one with a budget of $1 million. “Kissing a Fool,” again starring Schwimmer, grossed $2.3 million but received horrible reviews.
Ellin turned his eye to TV and presented a spec script for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to his manager, who also represented Wahlberg. Although the script was never produced, the manager offered him the chance to write “Entourage.” “It helps to be in front of the right people at the right time,” Ellin said.
Product Placements and the Power of Celebrity
When it comes to marketing, branding and product placement, it’s equally important to get the right products into the right celebrity hands. Celebrity partnerships and product placements can catapult brands from start-ups to marquee status in one episode.
Throughout the eight-year run of “Entourage,” the show spotlighted everything from household-name products to start-ups. The movie did the same, leading “AdWeek” to call the flick “the new paragon of product placement.”
The partnerships benefited both parties. Brands like Cadillac, Apple, and Ray-Ban appear prominently in the film, giving Ellin a pathway to securing funding for future projects. But lesser-known brands like Tequila Avión and a new (at the time) meet-up app called Klique, along with Wahlberg’s own nutrition brand, Marked, get a boost from product placements and logo appearances. Indy record label Old Scratch Records appears on David Faustino’s shirt.
How To Make Sure Brands Fit
The key to celebrity partnerships and product placements is ensuring that they fit within each scene and match the personality of the characters. That, of course, explains the abundance of luxury-car brands in “Entourage”; they fit the lifestyle of main character Vince and his bros. One would expect to see Apple and Nike, too. But, true to their down-to-earth New York roots, the boys aren’t above drinking Budweiser — and Turtle is seen frequently with a New York Yankees hat.
The “Entourage” movie reportedly had more than 41 product placements — yet it doesn’t look like a commercial for the biggest brands. They are products we would expect to see in context. In fact, it would seem strange not to see these household names in a movie based on real life. However, Ellin also boosts up-and-coming brands by working them seamlessly into the scenery.
Learn More from Doug Ellin at eCommerce Week LA 2021
Doug Ellin shared his life experiences at eCom Week LA during his session, “Celebrity Power and Brand Partnerships: The Entourage Story”. Whether you’re looking to boost your brand’s visibility or want to partner with celebrities and brands to boost your bottom line, Ellin’s session sheds light on the power of celebrity endorsements and product placements. He seeks to inspire entrepreneurs with guidance and direction to achieve financial and cinematic success through the power of relationships.
Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer specializing in technology, eCommerce and finance, and is the owner of the boutique content-marketing agency Allcot Media and GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel and entertainment website.
Yahoo!News – 41 Product Placements Spotted in Entourage
AdWeek.com – How Doug Ellin Turned Entourage into the New Paragon of Product Placement
RollingOut.com – Entourage Creator Doug Ellin Masterminds Product Placement and Brand Integration In New Movie