When the latest Transformers film was released this year and became the fourth-highest grossing movie of all time, there was one unlikely star of the show. It was Brains, a talking robot with the ability to transform itself into a laptop for camouflage.
But this was not just any laptop. It was a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge.
Product placement deals, celebrity endorsements and splashy marketing campaigns have long been a staple in the business world.
But technology companies, in particular, have become increasingly aggressive in using these tactics in a bid to boost sales in the sector, which is worth US$1.1 trillion (Dh4.04tn) in the US alone.
It's a competitive industry globally, in which margins can be notoriously thin and driving high-volume sales is often the name of the game.
"The final objective," says Kamel El Hedhli, an assistant marketing professor at Abu Dhabi University, "is to have the money of the consumer."
Companies such as Microsoft and Apple each spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on advertising, according to the consultancy Kantar Media. And they are working more closely with branding agencies, which coach them on what might drive shoppers to spend these days.
Ogilvy Beijing helped to land Lenovo the Transformers deal.
"Seamlessly integrating products into films in ways that will really connect with consumers requires creativity and skill," says one of the brand agency's directors.
Apple, for now, is the major player when it comes to the product placement war on the big screen.
Last year, the company's devices appeared in 30 per cent of the number one films in the US, which put it ahead of other well-known brands such as Nike, Chevrolet and Ford.
Gadgets by Sony and Dell also made frequent appearances and showed up in at least 15 per cent of the top movies, according to Brandchannel.com, a site under the global consultancy Interbrand.
To secure sales, however, technology manufacturers have to "establish an emotional connection with consumers", Mr El Hedhli says. "You cannot make a sale [just] because the consumer is aware of your brand. [That] is not enough."
That is why some tech manufacturers, which have their sights set on building business in the UAE and wider Middle East, have recently signed endorsement deals with celebrities.
In June, as cameras flashed during a typical moment of red carpet frenzy, the actress Megan Fox appeared at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
But she was not in the capital to promote a film debuting in this region. Fox was talking up how much she enjoyed watching LG's new Cinema 3D TV, which currently runs as much as Dh11,999 (US$3,266) at local tech retailers.
Pulling off this marketing manoeuvre took three months of preparations, according to HS Paik, the president of LG Electronics in the Gulf. While he declined to disclose how much LG spent on the event, he says "the reason we did this is there are sufficient returns on investments".
"We cannot say everything is owed to this event alone, but our media agencies [conduct] studies before and after … so we get a pretty good understanding on how successful our campaign was," Mr Paik says.
Last month, Harman Middle East announced that it would be turning up its advertising spending in the region by 300 per cent this year.
The company's new campaign will promote its brand of JBL speakers, and it has turned to endorsement deals with musicians such as AR Rahman and Maroon 5 to help generate a target of $300 million in revenue from the Middle East during this fiscal year.
But while tech companies typically spend lavishly on campaigns such as these, experts say there is more pressure on them to have "marketing accountability" these days.
"It's hard to establish the direct relationship between marketing and sales," Mr El Hedhli says. "It's also about your brand, the quality of your product, your price and a variety of factors that intervene in the equation and affect the sale," he says.
A division of the electronics company Sharp Middle East has noticed an increase in business after its biggest marketing event this year, which was held during the Gitex technology exhibition last month in Dubai.
It carved out a space for its business solutions division to demonstrate how universities and businesses with boardrooms could use large video walls made up of digital screens to share presentations as well as notes with students or working professionals.
"We have had more than a 50 per cent surge in the business leads from last year at Gitex," says Gautam Chakrabarty, the deputy general manager for marketing in the business solutions division of Sharp Middle East. "We do see a definite return on investment."
Other companies are now also touting technology.
Ford, for one, is trying to market itself as the "technology automotive company, so that when you think of Ford you think of cool technology", says Paul Anderson, the company's marketing director in the Middle East.
He adds that Ford has been investing "heavily" in experiential events. One includes a temporary track set to open this month in Dubai, where car enthusiasts can drive new vehicles to test high-tech features such as inflatable seat belts, automatic parking assist and collision warning.
"It's the first time we've done anything this big," Mr Anderson says.