Product Placement: Don’t Be Too Obvious

Party Time! Excellent!
Remember back in 1992 (yeah, it’s really been that long) when Wayne and Garth featured products, in particular Pizza Hut, Doritos, Pepsi and Reebok, in such an awkward way? They were talking about how giving their show’s news sponsor concessions would be selling out, a spoof on how some films sell out with product placement that’s way too obvious.

Product placement definition: an advertising technique used by companies to subtly promote their products, usually through appearances in film, television or other media

Why Product Placement?

We are exposed to hundreds, maybe thousands, of advertisements every day. The benefits are obvious: Product placement is theoretically less obtrusive, more believable (since a character you like is using the product), and your message will not be skipped during commercial breaks. However, to use product placement effectively, the product must be integrated into the plot with the help of writers, producers and artists. Product placement that is too obvious can be just as annoying to viewers as a commercial.

Product Integration

Product Placement Success

  • In 1981 Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer sunglasses were a dying model, selling only 18,000 pairs. Tom Cruise wore them in Risky Business (1983), and Ray-Ban sold 360,000 pairs later that year.
  • Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise drank Red Stripe beer together in The Firm (1983). That year sales increased 50% in the United States.
  • In GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan drove a Z3 by BMW, a model that had not yet been released. The month after the movie premiered BMW received 9,000 orders for that model.

Not Just For the Silver Screen

Product placement is not limited to TV and movies. It has also invaded other media, such as sports, music and video games. In the 2012 running of the Kentucky Derby, there was a dispute about advertising going too far when Dodge Ram put its logos on the jockeys’ pants. Lady Gaga revolutionized product placement in music videos, especially with Telephone, where at least nine brands make an appearance, including Miracle Whip, Diet Coke and Virgin Mobile. Even President Obama paid for placement in 18 different video games in 2008.

Reach Them Where They Are

Whatever medium you choose, product placement can be an extremely valuable form of advertising when executed effectively. It is the least obtrusive way to promote your product or message while reaching your audience where they already are. And if you do it effectively, it can help bring your message to life.