Have you ever watched a television show or movie and seen the actors drinking a Coke, working on a MAC, wearing Ray Ban sunglasses or eating pizza right out of a Pizza Hut box? If you haven’t seen these particular brands, chances are very good that you have seen some other brand subtly, or perhaps not so subtly, injected into the show. Now, the question really is, did you think to yourself, “Wow, that really cool character likes that thing, so I must go out and buy it”? If you did, product placement has been an effective form of advertising.
Product or brand placement are components of a term called branded entertainment (Young, 2010). Branded entertainment is a tactic used by marketers to answer the public’s ability to skip over commercials with the use of TIVO or DVR (Young, 2010). Since movies don’t have commercials, what better way to get a product recognized, even coveted, than to pop it into a celebrity’s hand, on their body or in their refrigerator?
Does this form of advertising work, or is the public getting wise to these mini-commercials? According to Ahmed (2007), this is debatable. Ahmed says brand placement can be effective, because it can’t be skipped over. It’s not disruptive, has the star factor and contains a sly, subliminal factor. Conversely, Ahmed (2007) says product placement may not work, as consumers are aware that’s it’s really just a commercial and feel manipulated. Plus, the cost of product placement is immense, ROI is almost impossible to measure, and this type of advertising does not come cheap. Celebrities and studios are paid big bucks by brands to be “featured” (Young, 2011), and some television shows have taken brand entertainment to a whole new level. 30 Rock, for example, took a light-hearted jab at this platform (Young, 2010). With Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) saying in response to Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) picking up an acquaintance’s Verizon phone, “Cuz that Verizon Wireless service is just unbeatable! If I saw a phone like that on TV, I’d be like, ‘Where’s my nearest retailer so I can get one?” Fey then holds up the phone and says to the camera, “Can we have our money now?” (Young, 2011).
Even with Ahmed’s (2007) valid points of why product placement may not work and 30 Rock’s in your face parody, Brand placement does not seem to be slowing down. The Brand Channel (Brand Channel, 2012) holds an annual Brand Cameo awards session, with winners in categories such as: Most Overall Placement, Worst Placement and Best Product Placement Stunt Double. A few of the 2011 winners are – drum roll, please…
– Apple for Overall Product Placement
– Hot Wheels for Worst Product Placement in The Green Lantern
– TGI Friday’s for Best Role in a Supporting Product Placement in Zookeeper
The other winners can be seen here: http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012-Brandcameo-Product-Placement-Awards-021312.aspx
So, the jury’s still out on whether branded entertainment actually works. Nonetheless, it’s a creative way for advertisers to slip their products into your favorite shows and movies and get around the innovation of TIVO and DVR. Personally, I enjoy counting how many brands I can recognize in my favorite TV shows. Popeye’s Chicken anyone? (Just Press Play, n.d.)
Ahmed, M. (2007). Does product placement work? Retrieved from:
Brand Channel (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012-Brandcameo-Product-
Just Press Play (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.justpressplay.net/images/stories/little_nicky_popeyes.jpg
Young, A. (2010). Brand media strategy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.