Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Awards Season is here – watch out for the celebrities and brands on your screen

The awards season has kicked off in Hollywood and you will find brands disputing attention nearly as much as the celebrities. Look closer into the cars, gowns, jewellery and champagne - brand endorsements are everywhere. This kind of implicit marketing also flourishes within the films and TV shows via product placements. Even video games have brands featured in them, like the Obama campaign we saw in the marketing communications lectures. Now that people don’t have to seat through ads, brands are increasingly being shifted into the entertainment piece or choosing to produce their own branded entertainment like Red Bull.

The main advantage of product placement is the ability to establish an instant emotional connection between the audience and the brand. People develop a strong emotional bond towards their favorite series and celebrities, which creates a halo effect for the brands featured in them. Product placement is booming and spend was up 11.7% at $8.25 billion by the end of 2012, with Australian marketers accounting for just over $100 million of the total, according to Consultancy PQ Media.

Media product placement is not new, but what makes it more attractive now is the fact that the audience is increasingly watching content online. This allows them to purchase the product featured on the screen within a few clicks. As discussed in a previous blog, it has recently become possible to embed links on YouTube videos enabling the viewer to buy the products featured on that video. Now imagine women watching shows like Sex and the City and being able to add the characters’ shoes and other fashion items to their shopping basket while watching the series.

Online product placement not only improves brand recognition, but it also generates direct sales. This way companies are able to establish a clear link between the marketing investment in the media placement and the sales generated by it. What is also great about product placement in online media is that it is more transparent than in broadcasted media, where the viewer is often not aware that the brand shown on screen is a paid product placement.

Top global brands are not the only ones opting for this kind of marketing tool. Product placements can be as diverse as the media audiences, so there are opportunities for all kinds of brands. The Green Product Placement agency in the US specialises in placing green, sustainable, socially responsible and local brands across different media. They have placed green brands in popular shows like Gossip Girl and The Good Wife.

All these great promises about product placements will go to waste, unless it is done properly. What we mean here is for the brand to be well integrated with the storyline; otherwise it can backlash like in the latest James Bond movie. Fans were left frustrated with the sight of agent 007 electing to drink a Heineken beer instead his signature vodka martini.

Numerous other brands were featured in Skyfall including Coke, Sony, BMW and Omega watches, which points out to another risk concerning the use of product placements. When overdone, this marketing tool has the potential to annoy viewers, which may result in the audience developing negative attitudes towards the brands. The saturation of brands placed in media could result in people developing the same resistance to product placements as is seen today with traditional ads.

What does the future hold for product placement?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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