Brands Get Ready for Their Close-Up

Discussion
Sep 21, 2009

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

In a multimedia world, advertisers have to find as many ways to get in as many faces as they possibly can. Retailers selling their products expect it, after all.

Television has long had sponsors for their shows. The U.S. and many European countries have allowed products and their logos to be clearly visible for some time but Britain has resisted. Until now.

Recession — and the internet — have claimed another scalp as revenue has fallen and alternatives have been desperately sought, forcing the government to at least consider a change of policy for commercial television. A three-month consultation has just been announced by Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, to explore product placement.

At present, labels on television programs must be camouflaged to comply with strict guidelines. Food and drink consumed in the Big Brother house, for example, come in packaging whose logos cannot be seen. Its creator, Peter Bazelgette, believes the change is "hugely overdue." The BBC quoted his prediction that placement "could be worth £100m a year to commercial TV. Product placement needs to be done transparently, with credits that make it clear it has taken place…Product placement won’t dramatically change the way we watch TV." Mr. Bazalgette added that "the commercial television proposition" would be strengthened because viewers fast-forward through commercial breaks or watch shows online, according to the Financial Times.

A statement from ITV (Independent Television) quoted in the Financial Times claimed that product placement "could be an important new revenue stream" and would "mean better-funded content, which can only be good news for viewers."

Ian Twinn, head of public affairs at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, disagreed on the potential value. "Advertisers are not crying out like mad for it," he said, citing doubts due to lead time and unknowns such as audience size and broadcast time.

Dave Turtle, spokesman for Mediawatch UK, also urged caution. In The Guardian, he expressed concern about "using television programmes to push a product" and advised broadcasters "to be responsible about which audiences they’re selling to and what. Self-regulation isn’t working. Do we really want to go down the American road where you’re bombarded constantly?"

In the U.S., product placement first began appearing in movies as far back as the thirties, was incorporated into radio mystery broadcasts before TV, and has been commonplace on TV. When Campbell Soup Co. sponsored "Lassie" in the 1950s, episodes ended with Timmy having a bowl of soup in the kitchen.

Discussion Questions: How beneficial has product placement in television and movies been for brands? Where does product placement fit within the mix of marketing tactics used by brands?
[Author’s commentary] Perhaps it depends on the program or the star, perhaps on the context, but many manufacturers and retailers love product placement. As do the television producers reaping the rewards for agreeing to either subtly or prominently display something that apparently fits the script. And consumers get to see what the stars or characters they love apparently love themselves. So where’s the harm, after all?

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5 Comments on "Brands Get Ready for Their Close-Up"


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Doron Levy
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Doron Levy
11 years 7 months ago

All I can say is: Demolition Man & Taco Bell. Enough said.

Dave Hamel
Guest
Dave Hamel
11 years 7 months ago

Technology is playing a role in this, as well. My firm received a proposal from a local TV affiliate that would allow us to place our client’s message on media that was embedded in an existing program. If there were a billboard in the background, that billboard could be for my client’s product. If there were a TV screen in the background, the TV could be showing my client’s commercial. There is some disagreement as to how to value these impressions: are they worth more or less than other types of commercial announcements or sponsorships? I’m guessing that TV shows will begin to produce episodes with more opportunities like these as the scramble for revenue continues.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Product placement, if done well, can be most beneficial to brands. Brands can use product placement to reposition their target demographic, gain exposure without a large advertising budget or remind consumers where they fit in their day to day lives. Done well, the placement is seamless and is a good fit for the brand and the film/TV show. Done wrong, it looks out of place and will be spotted by consumers for the commercial hype that it is. I’m glad to see the UK approve this important vehicle for brands. Both brands and television will benefit.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I find it odd in movies and TV when real products aren’t used. Real people drink Coca-Cola.

No restrictions. No holds barred. Sometimes the product placements will be a huge waste of money for a CPG company. Sometimes ET will make Reese’s Pieces popular.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
11 years 7 months ago

Coca-Cola uses product placement as it should be used and that is one of many impressions made on the buying public. The only real traceable sales boost via product placement is evident with products aimed at the 10 – 13 year old female demographic. A “Hanna Montana” type fad has been evident for decades. This may have started as early as Shirley Temple, but the above demographic has existed for decades and shows no tendency to slow down.

In general, product placement hurts nothing but does have the ability to help a product. Unless the product is placed in an incorrect situation. Pantie hose on Joe Namath?…What brand of hose were those?

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