Why Is Product Placement Important?

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Almost a decade ago a NescafĂ© coffee machine made an appearance on ITV show This Morning — barely something worth shouting about. However, the positioning of this hot drink’s dispenser was far more important than simply being within reach of the presenters so they could their next latte. It was in fact the very first use of product placement on British TV as a lengthy ban prior to this had been lifted. That isn’t to say that all restrictions have been dropped, as there is still a lot of red-tape when it comes to product placement. As an example, the BBC is prohibited from using product placement, due to the nature of the broadcaster’s funding. 

When it comes to other channels, they must display a ‘P’ on screens to inform viewers of an instance of product placement. However, there are certain products that cannot be used on TV and these include alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, and junk food as these are seen as damaging to a child’s development if promoted. 

Fast-forward to the present and eight years on from the ban being lifted, it is commonplace to see Costa Coffee cups and Co-Op shopping bags on Coronation Street’s Weatherfield set, while, Emmerdale regularly features McCain’s chips on dinner tables in the fictional village soap. Regardless of broadcast regulator OFCOM not keeping data when it comes to the amount of viewing hours dedicated to product placement, it’s not hard to see the impact that the marketing concept has had. In 2015, ITV confessed that in the years since the ban was lifted , they had scheduled over 4,000 hours of programmes that contained some form of product placement. 

In spite of the negative criticism that product placement can often get, a 2018 survey conducted by TRP Research found that only 27% of viewers had noticed it. Moreover, 67% said they don’t mind the marketing strategy if they do recognise it, while, one respondent noted, “I don’t mind it it— it makes the programme more real and relatable”. 

In this article, we explore product placements’ position in today’s media, assessing costs the against the investment and whether this paid off from a businesses perspective. 

GoldenEye, The Italian Job, Mission: Impossible 

Other than including some of the most jaw-dropping Hollywood movie scenes of all time, while also including some of the suavest men in history, these three films all have a common connection — the BMW brand. Pierce Brosnan, Mark Wahlberg, and Tom Cruise all negotiated some fairly unbelievable tasks at the helm of a vehicle produced by the German manufacturer, who, similarly, make the popular BMW 3 Series. 

Despite remaining faithful to the Aston Martin until 1995, it was inevitable that 007 was going to eventually swap driving position and get behind the wheel of the luxury BMW. Many had seen the Bavarian company’s investment of $3 million a risk —if the movie release was to be delayed, the featured Z3 would be an outdated concept. But, their gamble paid dividends, and returned approximately $240 million in sales. Not only did profits rise like Bond’s passenger ejector seat, the brand built successfully built upon an already distinguished reputation. 

In regard to the Italian Job remake in 2003, film critic Stephanie Zacharek noted, “the real start of The Italian Job is not a person but a car”. After providing more than thirty different Minis, to whom BMW are the owner, the final scene of the movie, one of the most exhilarating car chases to come out of Hollywood, which featured three different coloured models, BMW’s sales increased 22 per cent the following year. 

Love Island 

It seems like a lifetime ago that British reality show Love Island featured the likes of Calum Best, Lee Sharpe, and Liz McLarnon. The inaugural generation of the show, which has since been revamped, failed to emulate the success of its successor. Returning for a fifth series in its second generation, Love Island has successfully established itself as a brand in itself. It should come as no surprise that a host of companies have invested heavily to get their own slice of the reality pie. 

Kantar Social Media Intelligence reported that the ITV series was the most talked about show on Twitter in 2018. However, not even the producers could have predicted the growth of the show in 2019. 3.7 million people tuned in to watch the first episode on 3 rd June. Added to those who viewed the show through ITV Hub, the online streaming service, to the viewing figure came in at 4.2 million — a considerable 1.3 million more than sat down to indulge in it some 12 months previous. 

Health and beauty retailer Superdrug were the headline sponsor for the previous three years, striking up multi-million-pound deals. However, failed negotiations with the high-street store saw Love Island partner up with app-based takeaway company, Uber Eats. Reportedly, the delivery service paid more than £5m and their investment, despite what may seem financially intensive, makes considerable sense. During the first episode, 18.5 per cent of viewers that were watching TV at the time were watching Love Island. More importantly, for the brands who had invested, which include Lucozade, Ministry of Sound, and Samsung, 57 per cent of the demographic they were targeting that were watching television, 16-24 year old’s, were also tuned in. 

Stranger Things 

The American Netflix series Stranger Things, now in its fourth season, is one of the most popular talking points in the modern media through 2022. Despite a gripping plot and undeniably talented acting delivered through the show’s young cast, viewers were quick to point the sheer multitude of brands which featured. 

In a report generated by Concave Brand Tracking, it was estimated that the brand placement included in the third series was worth more than $15 million. The top ten visible labels were: 

• Adidas 
• Burger King 
• Cadillac
• Casio 
• Chevrolet 
• Coca-Cola 
• Pentax 
• Reebok 
• Sharp 
• 7-Eleven 

Due to the record-breaking viewership which Stranger Things attracts and the fact advertising is significantly cheaper on Netflix , Dominic Artzrouni, director of Concave, suggests “the ROI numbers are making brands very happy”. Artzrouni goes on to draw upon the fact none of the products which are referenced were paid for by third parties and are all part of the show, which regularly calls upon ‘80s consumer culture. 

Embrace The Power Of Product Placement

There is no denying that product placement plays a significant role in the media, however, has it gone too far and started destructing the naturality of shows? Whether it does or not, brands will continue to position their products if they keep enjoying the return on investment.

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