Product Placement

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By definition, product placement is the purposeful incorporation of a brand into an entertainment vehicle. (Reichert, 2008) The textbook calls this strategic placement of products in TV shows, movies, and other entertainment vehicles, a hybrid of traditional advertising. This suggests that not only is the product being promoted, but it is done in such a way that the audience may not even realize they are being sold to. It has been said to “epitomize the blurring of the lines between advertising and entertainment”. Reichert, 2008).

Some may few this as being unethical or an unfair way to promote different products, however, I believe product placement is nothing but effective. While there are several differences between traditional advertising and product placement, they are both essentially doing the same thing; paid communication of a product in a mass medium. The main differences include the fact that the FCC regulates advertising while product placement is not regulated at all.

Another key example of the difference in the two is that while advertisements try to promote product attributes or functionality, product placement simply shows the product in every day use. Most advertising professionals who favor traditional media selection would claim that this is a serious disadvantage to spending millions of dollars on product placement, though many others would state that seeing the product in use is a far better promotion than any advertisement, especially if it is in use by the audience’s favorite TV characters or movie stars.

I think this method of promotion (product placement) is relevant to what the audience may actually being experiencing in their day to day life, and adding the featured product may be what is missing from their day. According to one research study done by Jay Newell, an assistant professor at Iowa State University, the earliest product placement began in the late 1800s, long before popular radio sponsorships, in motion pictures done by the pioneering French filmmakers the Lumiere brothers. In May 1896 the brothers shot a film of two women hand-washing tubs of laundry.

Placed prominently in front of the tubs were two cases of soap, one with the French branding “Sunlight Savon,” the other with the German “Sunlight Seife. ”(Newell, 2010). It wasn’t long after the Frenchmen had their ingenious soap placement idea that Thomas Edison began to really turn product placement into a business. To cut production costs of his films, he would feature the rail line in his movies that his film crew actually used for transportation. Inside the railcar, on screen, would be advertisements for Edison products, like the phonograph. (Newell, 2010).

A more recent example from the 1930s is how radio shows would be sponsored by a single advertiser. The product being advertised is not only featured in commercials before, during, and after the show, but the product was also incorporated into the content of the show. The milk supplement, Ovaltine, sponsored little Orphan Annie in its debut in 1931. Fans could redeem Ovaltine proofs of purchase for a secret decoder ring or badge that decoded brief messages airing in the last moments of the show. A good example of this would be in the movie A Christmas Story.

The main character receives his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring in the mail and hastily works to decode the message only to discover it is a “crummy commercial” reminding him to drink his Ovaltine. This integration of the product from radio content to the hands of the actual Ovaltine consumer was far ahead of its time. These three early examples of product placement have proved the long lasting success of the idea. The consumer feels comfortable using products that have been used by celebrities, even if it is on TV or in the movies.

This is not to be confused with brand identity, which would be if a celebrity used and inspired the use of a product their real lives. ) The success of product placement in regards to the landscape of modern advertising began in 1982 with the major motion picture E. T. : The Extraterrestrial, which features the main character dropping Reese’s Pieces through the woods to lure his alien friend from it’s hiding spot. Originally, Mar’s Inc, the makers of the popular candy M&M’s, was offered the spot for use in the movie.

However, Mar’s declined the offer, making room for Hershey’s Inc to jump on the chance to spotlight their new Reese’s Pieces. Why Mar’s passed on the offer, there are several speculations. One theory is that they did not want M&M’s associated with “extraterrestrial” activity, which was a very controversial topic in the early 1980s. Regardless of why Mar’s turned down the opportunity, Hershey’s benefitted dramatically from the deal. This was still in the early days of modern product placement; therefore Hershey did not pay directly for the placement.

A deal was constructed that Hershey’s would do one million dollars worth of advertising for E. T. while in turn, Hershey’s could use E. T. in their own advertisements. Within two weeks of the premiere, Reese’s Pieces sales were said to have increased 65 percent. (Lehu, 2009) Product placement is placed into editorial content at three different levels. These levels are defined as prominence. (Reichert, 2008) The first level is prominent placement, which means the product is an integral part of the story line. A good example of this is in the movie Transformers.

The main character is actually the brand new (at the time of the release) Chevrolet Camaro, named Bumblebee. The second level is hero placement, which means the product is in the actor’s hands at some point, but not necessarily mentioned. The last type of placement is called low prominence, which means the product is shown in the background of a scene and not directly mentioned. Previous research has indicated that a placement’s prominence has a positive impact on the recall of the placed brand (Russell, 2005). There are several variables that can affect prominence and, therefore, are expected to benefit recall.

They include the following: the duration of a placement’s exposure on the screen contributes to its level of prominence and therefore is expected to provide enhanced memory, the size of a product or logo on the screen increases the chances that the audience will remember it and the location of the brand image on the screen itself (Chang, 2008). Product placement is beginning to be a prime outlet for advertisers. In 2005, it was a 3. 4 billion dollar business and has only increased since then and a part of the marketing mix of over 1,000 brands in the United States (Riechert, 2008).

In a fully produced movie there could be over 500 product placements. The cost of these placements usually goes to defraying the cost of producing the movie and also is used as box office insurance. For example, New Line Cinema’s blockbuster hit Sex and the City: The Movie has been dubbed the “Super Bowl for women” simple because of all the products that were paid to be placed in this movie. The list of placements is broken down into seven categories: designers, stores and services, gadgets, publications, sip and snacks, from the pharmacy, and places and ways to get there.

The movie incorporated brands that had been used in the popular HBO series for six seasons like the main character, Carrie Bradshaw’s, MacBook Apple computer, as well as many different new brands. The placements helped dramatically with production costs, and thanks to overwhelming success of the movie, contributed to profits as well. Many of the brands incorporated into the movie have said to have seen an increase in sales after the placement, including the popular shoe designer, Manolo Blanik.

The movie studio, or actual producers of the movies, like Universal Studios and Disney decide the bases for potential for inclusion of product placements in scripts. These studios will send scripts to clients seeking permission to use the brands in the scene either directly or through use of a product placement agency. Because the development of the product placement industry is relatively recent, there is diversity in the types and sizes of specific agencies that handle placements, the companies that use them, and the ways the studios are organized to deal with them.

Brands to be used picked by the studio or even sometimes by the actor. These tastes and influences can build relationships to be used in future productions. (Cowley, 2008) There are down sides to product placement. “Studies continue to show that consumers are increasingly cynical and annoyed by the “intrusions” of today’s marketing efforts” (Reichert, 132). As addressed in class discussion, there is such a thing as over saturation of product placement, like the ever-popular movie Wayne’s World, which blatantly implies the usage of Pizza Hut and Pepsi.

Because product placement is not regulated, there s no way to limit to how many products can be featured in one movie or even in one frame. This has the potential to become very distracting to an audience, if abused, thus turning the audience off to any and all products they may see on screen, which would have an adverse effect. Another downfall is no “full disclosure” which basically means the audience is not provided with the disclosure the commercials provide. Many traditionalists think that this is unethical. However, I think the subtler the integration of the product is in to the story, the better the response of the consumer.

People don’t want their movies and TV shows to feel like an advertisement for a bunch of different products, so it is up to the producers to blend these products in to the editorial content. (Cowely, 2008) There is also the option to blur out a label or use generic products in the films, but this takes away from the reality spectrum and would make the story feel less believable. If disclosure is absolutely necessary, I would suggest adding a list of companies that have paid to place their products in movies to the movie credits.

The definition mentioned previously suggests the fact that the practice of product placement is not restricted to television and movies but also occurs in radio shows, songs and music videos, video games, plays, and even novels (Chang, 2009). This diversity has contributed to the overall success of product placement as an industry. The more output the better and industry will do. The definition also takes into account the different models in which the brand may be presented and the multiple degrees of brand integration. It also acknowledges the fact that not all placements are paid.

The example of Lady Gaga’s music video for her popular song Telephone can suffice to show product placement’s utility and to show how not all product placements are paid for. For example, in the scene where Gaga is making sandwiches, WonderBread is not a paid product placement, but it was selected by the video director as bread of choice and was just used with license permission from the company. However, in the very same scene, Gaga uses Miracle Whip on the sandwiches, which was a paid product placement. (Miracle Whip is going for a new, edgy, theme).

Although it’s been around for a long time, the product placement ndustry is still in stages of early development. Product placements will eventually start to be a larger part of advertising budgets and marketers will seek more accountability. The use of this medium, like others, will require greater authentication of their contribution (Wiles, 2009). Those involved in this industry should learn from the Internet advertising industry, which demonstrated the same type of explosion in the market. Eventually, product placement will be asked to demonstrate it’s effectiveness and compared to other media. I believe product placement, with enough evidence to prove it, will do this.

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