What kind of car does Jack Bauer drive? If you answered Ford Expedition, you’d be right. You would also be making the folks at Ford Motor Company very happy. That’s the beauty of product placement. Because of TiVo and DVRs, advertisers have been forced to get crafty when it comes to increasing brand and product awareness. While the practice of product placement has been common in movies for ages, it is beginning to take over the small screen.
I am sure that you all know what I’m talking about. Simon, Paula, Randy and Kara only drink out of Coca-Cola cups when they’re sitting behind the judges table on American Idol. And I’m sure that Back to the Future fans remember the crucial role the DeLorean played in that film. There was an episode of Friends dedicated to Pheobe’s hatred of Pottery Barn. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones characters sported Ray Bans for the entirety of Men in Black. And everybody knows that E.T.’s candy of choice is Reese’s Pieces.
Product placement has become a serious funding machine. Companies sponsor television episodes, movies, sporting events and, on occasion, entire television series. The trade organization of product placement (yes, one exists) assigns a value to the placement based on its type. For example, showing a product in the background of a scene costs less than if the product is handled by or specifically mentioned by the star. These days an advertiser might pay the same cost per second to have a prominent placement in a show as they would pay for a 30 second commercial. Research shows that the most effective placements occur when a 30 second spot precedes and follows the show segment in which the product is placed.
So what gives? Why is product placement so popular? Numerous studies have been conducted, and it turns out that while the majority of viewers realize a product is being promoted, only half of them consider it to be intrusive. And that, my friends, is exactly the goal of product placement.
So what’s the moral of this story? Like it or not, product placement is here to stay. The real question is how do you feel about it?
*The inspiration for this blog came from by the fabulous book I am reading, Watch This Listen Up Click Here: Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume by David Verklin & Bernice Kanner.