Product Placement: The Basics

Product placement can engage an audience effectively if it is subtle. This could be explained in the context of persuasion knowledge: if consumers are aware that they are being persuaded, they tend to evaluate the marketer’s actions less favourably. Product placement can be more effective than traditional advertising if it is not “perceived as persuasive messages”. To put it simply, the more subtle product placements are the more effective ones. 

Research shows that verbal product placement may be the most effective method. Product placements in which the product or brand name is spoken influence consumers the most. They are more likely to get noticed, and are less likely to trigger persuasion knowledge. They can also improve a brand’s digital presence. Research on about 3,000 product placements for 99 brands found that “prominent product placement activities – especially verbal placements – are associated with increases in both online conversations and web traffic for the brand”.

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Product placement has long been present in Hollywood movies. To increase brand recognition and association with cool characters, especially alcohol and car companies have been investing in placing their products in films. This several-decade lasting cooperation is set to continue as brands are looking for new ways to attract attention, while production teams are looking to offset costs in a creative way. Product placement is on the increase: in 2022, it was a $23 billion industry, up by 14% since 2020.

Product placement in movies offers new branding opportunities compared to traditional forms of advertising such as TV commercials, magazines, posters and so on. Contrasting product placement with advertising highlights a significant difference between them: product placement embedded in entertainment is “a subtle way of unconscious branding”, while a traditional commercial is a form of pure advertising.

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As brands seek to be integrated into content to increase their visibility, an increasing number of consumers are not paying enough attention to ads. Recently conducted research by Forrester found that only 5% of American adults rarely skip ads, while 74% do it often. To avoid this scenario, product placement needs to balance showing off the product and fading into the background. “It has to be executed in a way that doesn’t feel like an advertisement,” explains Mike Proulx, Vice President and Research Director of Forrester. 

Product placement is highly valuable to brand building, which is especially apparent in the context of movies. Firstly, product placement increases the popularity of brands. Secondly, it triggers desire for shown products. Thirdly, product placement can create “an association of a product with a certain lifestyle”. It also benefits the brand and the movie financially: the brand pays for visibility, which in turn contributes to the film crew’s finances.

Product placement is an integral part of influencer marketing. It follows the lead of “Hollywood camouflage branding”. The promotion of products is contextualized in the content of posts. Messages create the illusion that there is an authentic bond between the influencer and their audience. Influencer marketing thus successfully blurs the line between advertisement and content, just like Hollywood branding does. Indluencers also combine entertainment with subtle advertising, which increases brand awareness and sales of promoted products.

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References:  Lukass Strungs, | Sophie Haigney, | Nathalie Schabio,