Digital Marketing

Emergence and importance of product placement and brand entertainment

For those who think that subliminal forms of communication are dead, think again. It’s alive and well, it may not be overtly, but surreptitiously in the form of product placements and branded entertainment. Even a casual glance at current movie or television content amply reveals a variety of product placements, some very subtle and others that clearly cross the line between advertising and factual media content to sell products, ideas and services. Why is it subliminal? Because…our brain filters that normally remove overt advertising messages from media programming, don’t step in to block these covertly placed product placements and their embedded meanings and messages. It simply registers in the consumer’s subconscious.

Both television and movies are full of examples. Did anyone miss the glass of Coke at the judges’ tables on the TV show American Idol? I do not think. The new James Bond movie CasinoRoyale includes more than its fair share of product placements, from cars (Ford) to branded airlines (Virgin Airways). It’s even more interesting how the concept of product placement has been expanded in this film. There is a placement of person! A person who is subliminally associated with Virgin Airways. This is none other than Virgin Chairman Richard Branson, an icon of the brand. If you look closely at the particular scene set at the Miami airport, there is Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson in the security check line, followed a few seconds later by the shot of a Virgin plane landing. Casually, you say. Not according to the sources. CasinoRoyale producer Barbara Brocolli struck a deal with Virgin that included a plane for the airport scene, with the jet taking the crew for over three days of filming. In return, along with some promotional ties to CasinoRoyale, the producers offered to include Branson and his son in the film as a thank you. The cost to Virgin of placing this unpaid product: a few hundred thousand pounds!

Marketers are increasingly using product placement techniques to reach consumers as new technology and an ever-increasing range of media options make conventional advertising a less feasible way to promote brands and ideas. Whether on TV or movies, product placements can be used to reach a mass audience or as part of custom campaigns targeting specific audiences. While critics may blame product placement marketing for blurring the line between reality and media content, the real world of product placement marketing, both paid and free, is thriving. According to a 2005 PQ Media report, worldwide paid product placement spending (this obviously does not include all unpaid product placement costs, figures for which are not as readily available) was $2.2 billion, and product placements in the United States account for more than two-thirds or about $1.5 billion. Not surprisingly, the PQ Media report projects these figures to grow significantly worldwide to around $7.5 billion by 2010, again with the US leading the way.

In fast emerging markets, particularly India and China, the use of branded product and entertainment locations has exploded. The same PQ Media Report lists India’s overall product placement spending as fifth in global product placement rankings and predicts strong growth to match the US over the next three to four years. The influx of product placement in India has been so phenomenal that Bollywood has embraced the role of branded entertainment and has set out to finalize huge financial deals for marketing ties with major product marketers like Reebok, Sony, etc. For example, in an upcoming Bollywood movie, Goal, the creator of the show will have the brand actively involved in the look of the film, in the style of a Reebok infomercial, in which the stars, John Abraham and others, they will wear Reebok shoes and clothing, wear sports gear and sunglasses and virtually allow Reebok to influence the feel and look of the film.

How do strategically induced product placements or branded entertainment at Hollywood’s Casino Royale and Bollywood’s Goal help Virgin Airways and the Reebok brand, respectively? Does person location (Branson) and brand location (Virgin) contribute to an air traveler’s higher propensity to book their ticket next time on Virgin Airways? Does John Abraham’s use of the Reebok brand increase Reebok’s sales in India? Or, for that matter, of any leading character on any television show drinking and enjoying Starbucks coffee: will this result in a noticeable increase in consumers drinking Starbucks? It should, according to marketers, because Branson’s brief involvement helped create a subliminal association with Virgin and its corporate airlines and an opportunity for ‘people’ to talk about it… the exact reason Virgin lent its resources to Brocolli in the first place. . And in the case of India’s Goal movie, the assumption is that Reebok’s strong association with football will rub off on the film and that viewers will line up at Reebok stores in India.

While the subtle placement of product placements may be one approach, the ultimate goal is undoubtedly to create a perception among viewers that will help increase the bottom line of the product. It is this end in view that drives product placement and brand entertainment: the need to increase consideration and opinion of a brand from simple brand awareness. If in the process, one needs subliminal tactics, product placement and branded entertainment gurus have a whole arsenal at their disposal that they can use.

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