“LIGHTS, CAMERA & ADVERTISEMENTS”
A CASE STUDY ON
IN-FILM/TV SERIAL/GAME PRODUCT PLACEMENT
Product placement is a type of advertising, in which promotional advertisements placed by
marketers using real commercial products and services in media, where the presence of a
particular brand is the result of an economic exchange. When featuring a product is not part of an
economic exchange, it is called a product plug. Product placement appears in plays, film,
television series, music videos, video games and books. It became more common starting in the
1980s, but can be traced back to at least 1949. Product placement occurs with the inclusion of a
brand's logo in shot, or a favorable mention or appearance of a product in shot. This is done
without disclosure, and under the premise that it is a natural part of the work. Most major movie
releases today contain product placements. The most common form is movie and television
placements and more recently computer and video games. Recently, websites have experimented
with in-site product placement as a revenue model.
In early media, e.g. radio in the 1930s and 1940s and early television in the 1950s, programs
were often underwritten by companies. "Soap operas" are called such because they were initially
underwritten by consumer packaged goods companies such as Procter & Gamble or Unilever.
WHY PRODUCT PLACEMENT?
Product placement has evolved from a novel marketing tactic to a key marketing strategy on a
global scale, as brand marketers seek more effective methods to make important emotional
connections with consumers.
The benefits of product placement are :-
Benefits to the Brand:-
Implied Endorsements: - One significant advantage of product placements is that these
implied endorsements are often made by major actors or actresses which frequently do
not appear in television commercials. For although we may never see Amitabh Bachchan
drinking a soft drink but in a movie when he drinks it makes a significant impression.
Global Reach and Long Life: - Another advantage of product placement is its far reach.
The vast reach of product placement can be attributed to the ever expanding global
distribution channels for feature films. When a film is released, a few months later, it is
followed by numerous ancillary markets including home video, pay per view, premium
cable channels, and finally broadcast television. Each of these distribution channels are
further opportunities for the film to be seen and for the product placement to be observed
which, in turn, increases both its reach and frequency. Also, unlike a TV commercial
which appears only during a particular program and then vanishes unless another fee is
paid, product placement is embedded within the film and travels with it. The actual life of
a placement, therefore, is extremely long and as long as people continue to view the film,
the placement continues to receive exposure. Product placement, as a result, is basically
Low Cost: - The actual cost of product placement is extremely low relative to other forms
of promotions or advertising. The 'cost per thousand' of product placement versus TV or
print is pennies versus dollars. It is very economical and sought after.
Low Clutter: - A frequent and ever-increasing problem in traditional advertising is the
overabundance of advertisements which fill the airwaves, cable channels and pages of
traditional media. This phenomenon is known as "clutter." A lack of clutter is one of the
key advantages of product placement. Product placement does not interrupt the flow of
the film and is therefore less obtrusive than other forms of advertising. The artistic
sensibilities of most directors and their concerns about over commercializing their films
help to keep the total amount of placement within any given film to a minimum. Hence,
most films are not cluttered with product placement.
Optimum Viewing Environment and A Captive Audience: - Although the extensive reach
of a feature film product placement is a result of the many and ever-increasing
distribution channels for feature films, the theatrical movie-going experience offers both
filmmakers and corporate marketers the ultimate opportunity to expose their respective
products. The resolution, size, and aspect ratio achieved through motion picture
projection allow the images to convey a depth, brilliance, and power which is simply
unachievable through even the best picture tube or projection technology. Such high
quality image and sound reproduction systems offer corporate marketers an environment
which can depict their products and services in the best possible light.
Another advantage of feature film product
placement is ability of this medium to deliver a captive and more accurately measurable
audience. Movies, particularly in the theater, grab the attention of an audience more so
than most other forms of entertainment. TV and radio are frequently used as a type of
companion or ambiance which are left on while other activities, like cooking, cleaning or
homework, are taking place. The movie-viewing experience, even at home, is thought as
of more an event, which is thus better able to capture the viewer or audience's attention.
The investment of additional time and money required to view a movie in any of the early
stages of distribution prior to broadcast television, such as theatrical, premium cable, pay-
per-view, or videotape require an additional expenditure, such as the ticket price, rental
cost, pay per view fee, or premium cable channel surcharge. This translates into a higher
value being placed on the activity and thus a greater likelihood the consumer will watch
the entire film and be exposed to the placement contained within it. This increases the
exposure of brand and this helps in its better marketing.
Benefits to Film-makers:
Cost Reduction and Revenues: - The most frequent quantitative benefit for the
filmmakers and studios derived from product placement involves associated cost-
reductions. These cost-savings are realized in the props, set decorations, and locations
which are provided for free and which ultimately end up on-screen. Airlines and hotels
often provide free or reduced rate services in return for placement. Food and beverages
companies provide food and drinks for crew in return of their placement. As everything is
profit driven, the producers always look for product placements in their films. Who does
not want to make it „bigger‟ if he is making just „big‟?
Promotion: - The primary method of promoting feature films is through movie trailers,
traditional advertising and publicity. However, other types of promotions are used by the
studios as a creative way of reaching potential movie patrons, such as sponsoring movie
tickets giveaways on a radio station. A particularly potent type of movie promotion is
known as a cross-promotion (also referred to as a back-end promotion).
A cross-promotion occurs when a studio enlists the support of a corporate marketer to
promote a film to its customers via traditional advertising, in-store displays or other
means. For example, Burger King did a large cross-promotion for "Batman" which
included TV commercials, in-store displays and giveaways. In the past McDonalds has
been also associated with movies. According to Musette Buckley of Warner Bros,
"A placement along with a promotion is like icing on the cake. In the past, promotions
have been done without it, but they're starting to realize that with it, it makes even more
sense." One advantage of linking the placement to the promotion is that the placement
will have a better chance of properly occurring. "The success rate for product placement
is higher when promotions are attached, because filmmakers are more involved in and
aware of promotions and the potential ramifications if the placement does not occur,"
says Tony Grana of Universal Studios.
Product placement in the media has been viewed as a hybrid of
advertising and publicity. However, Gupta and Gold (1997) discovered that viewers can react
positively and negatively to product placements depending on the type of product featured,
suggesting that positive or negative publicity will affect consumers differently.
Gupta and Lord (1998) reasoned that characteristics that render a product
placement prominent are similar to those in advertising, such as increasing the size of a print ad
or of an image within an ad, which increases the likelihood that it will attract attention. The study
categorized product placement into two dimensions. One dimension was presentation (senses
activated by the stimulus), and the other was level of prominence (the extent to which the
product placement possesses characteristics designed to make it a central focus of audience
attention). Gupta and Lord categorize product placement strategies into three modes: visual only
(VIS); audio only (AUD); and combined audio-visual (AV). The first mode (VIS) is showing the
product or any other type of brand identifier without any relevant message or sounds in the audio
track drawing attention to the product. The second mode (AUD) involves the mention of a brand
name or product by a character without visual aid. The third mode (AV) involves showing a
brand name while simultaneously mentioning the brand name or conveying a brand-relevant
message in audio form.
Each of the modes can vary in degree of prominence or subtlety. A prominent placement is that
in which the product is made highly visible by virtue of size and/or position on the screen or its
centrality to the action in the scene. Subtle placements are those in which the brand is or is not
small in size, used as a background prop, or given low exposure time.
The Product Placement Audience:-
Four themes as to how brand props were interpreted and experienced
by viewers arose from the cross-section of moviegoers in a study by Delorme and Reid (1999).
The viewers appreciated realism, noticed the familiar, and related to characters. Concerning
realism, viewers stated that they enjoyed the subtle use of brand placement because they
considered the movie to be more realistic, but they disliked excessive and obvious product
placement because it distracted from the realism of the movie.
The themes of consumption-specific relevance that DeLorme & Reid
(1999) determined are tools for purchasing decisions, tools for identity and aspiration, change
and discomfort, and belonging and security among viewers. Each of these themes can potentially
raise ethical concerns. Product placement becomes an influence on a person as he or she
compares product placement to personal purchasing and consumption decisions, thereby
confirming or disconfirming past or planned brand-related behavior. Identity and lifestyles are
confirmed or disconfirmed when viewers associate brand pops in relation to their own self-
impressions as consumers. Change and discomfort can possibly be caused when viewers
encounter brand props and then consider those products/services threats and/or interruptions to
the normalcy of their own lives. In doing so, encountered props produce negative thoughts and
feelings about social trends and patterns. DeLorme & Reid (1999) determined that belonging and
security in terms of product placement is generated from brand props encountered in a particular
movie from which viewers gain emotional security and social connectivity. As such, encountered
props produce positive thought and feelings about social bonds and interactional experiences.
The security and social connectivity could be considered
manipulative, raising questions about the ethics of the practice of product placement. The
emergence of these themes from the study suggested that moviegoers have “interpretive
experiences with encountered brand props that extend beyond movie-specific experiences and
contexts to consumption-specific situations” (DeLorme & Reid, 1999, p. 84). These four themes
can be used to question deceptive practices of product placement in movies, television, etc. In the
viewing experience, moviegoers are active participants. “They learned by viewing brand props
and related that learning to movies (including characters and plots), to the movie-viewing
experience, and to aspects of their own everyday lives as consumers” (DeLorme & Reid, 1999,
p. 85). DeLorme and Reid (1999) determined that regardless of age or movie-going frequency,
the informants were active participants in the viewing experience and actively interpreted brands
encountered in movies.
According to a study conducted by DeLorme and Reid both
frequent and infrequent moviegoers ranging in age from 21 to 45 were aware of the persuasive
intent of brand props, even when they judged them to be excessive, inappropriate, or unrealistic.
The study discovered the following noteworthy findings: respondents noticed familiar products;
brand props that were familiar enhanced movie enjoyment; products can be recognized with or
without a logo, commercial advertising, or slogan merely from a company‟s past advertising.
DeLorme and Reid (1999) reported that informants indicated that the relationship with characters
strengthened, and the involvement in and enjoyment of the movie increased, when they noticed
„their brands‟ being used by a movie character, or even featured in a scene.
Placement Effects on Audience:-
Viewers are active interpreters, not passive receptors of product placement.
DeLorme and Reid‟s (1999) study determined that influence of brand placement is not able to be
typified, thereby suggesting that factors such as perceived needs, self-image, past experiences,
contests, and demographics are all very important. Additionally, viewers are very aware of the
persuasive intent of product placement, leading to skepticism and resistance of persuasive
attempts. Clearly, then, viewers are not manipulated and deceived into buying every product they
see in a movie.
DeLorme and Reid (1999) learned that the majority of the participants in the study were able to
recognize and recall brand placements, describing many examples and experiences without aids
to recall. Based on this finding, DeLorme and Reid suggested that the potential long-term nature
of product placement effects on memory should be acknowledged. Memory of product
placements in movies seems to endure, which in turn can act as long-term reminder advertising.
In fact, many of the participants willingly reported that brand name recognition and long-term
influence are effects of product placement. As attitudes toward brands develop over time,
Product placement seems to contribute in valuable ways to strengthening and reinforcing pre-
conceived attitudes towards brands. Through product placement, associations that build a brand‟s
image can be significant, especially in the context of positive and negative portrayals, the
treatment of the brand within a movie, the significance of the movie itself, and the nature of the
featured brand, as well.
Babin and Carder (1996) sampled 108 college students, using Rocky III
to assess the effects of 39 brands placed in the movie. The study concluded that brand
recognition was significantly greater for those who viewed the movie in comparison to a control
group for more than 25% of the 39 brands that made an appearance in the movie. Also in the
1996 study, Babin and Carder found that viewers were able to recognize and recall brands that
had been placed in the movies they viewed. They were also able to distinguish between brands
they viewed in the movies and brands that did not appear in the movies.
DeLorme, Reid, and Zimmer (1994) conducted focus groups of college
students who were frequent moviegoers. It was concluded that participants like subtle use of
brands in movies because it contributes to the realism, where generic products lessened the
artistic values. The participants also felt that products in movies brought the movie characters
closer because the viewers identified with characters that used the same products they did.
Some research has suggested that product placement can have greater
impact with program audiences than is typically found with comparable advertising exposures.
As product placement continues to be a growing trend in the media market, research
has demonstrated that viewers do actually recognize and recall brand/product placement.
Because many studies have demonstrated that there is not a change in affect or immediate
preference for products once they have been placed in the media, and because most viewers are
in favor of product placement because it contributes to realistic settings of scenes, product
placement is merely one effect of many upon consumers‟ attitudes. Therefore, regulation and/or
restriction of the practice of product placement is not a necessary procedure. However, it seems
product placement can go too far and negate its own intended outcomes.
Stuart Fischoff, a media psychologist at California State University, Los Angeles,
went as far as describing a screening audience‟s response to the mall scene of Steven Spielberg‟s
“Minority Report” (which contained extreme and blatant product placement) as “a wave of
outrage and finally a tsunami of dismissive hilarity”. To viewers, products, brands, and activities
have come to signify or perform social roles. Products are used as a means of gaining status and
The best examples of product placement are seamlessly woven into
the narrative. However, when it is not done well, product placement can seem forced and
obvious, detracting from the credibility and quality of the experience. Poor product placement
can result in viewer fatigue and if it happens then the audience might feel cheated as if he/she is
watching is a long commercial. In that case both the product and the film suffer.
With the increase in use of product placement, analysts fear that consumers will develop ad-
blindness, becoming so accustomed to ads that they stop noticing them. When an ad is repeated
too often, people adapt to their presence and filter them out of their vision.
There is ad resentment among the viewers. To combat this, advertisers are going for product
placement and that too innovatively. At the same time there has been a recent trend among the
advertisers to make regular ads shown in print and electronic media more interesting and precise.
This can be seen in ads which try to entertain through their gags or high emotional quotient.
With growing popularity of cinema, serials and video games, advertisers get more
opportunities to promote their brand through product placement as these are the prime source of
entertainment and viewers never skip them. Just imagine how many days can you leave without
your favorite serial or can you avoid going to films of your favorite actor. Even kids are highly
addicted to video games. So the probability of brand noticing there becomes high. Also with
increase in purchasing power of Indians and their craze for brand-savvy life all thanks to stars
whom the youth blindly follow and copy there is a more chance that if Aamir Khan uses a certain
brand in his film his fans will have a pleasant connection with that brand. Star power really sells!
This is just a happy start for advertisers. Perhaps one day we would have Oscars for the best
product placement in a film!