Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Did You See the Ad?

What is product placement? Can you recall sitting on your nice, comfy couch watching a movie and all of a sudden your favorite actor or actress drinks a Coke or Pepsi product? Well, that is product placement. It is when advertisers promote products in movies, television shows, books, or video games without the viewer’s acknowledging that the product placement is there. Cowly & Barron states that product placement is the following, “unobtrusively inserting branded products in entertainment programs such that the viewers are unlikely to be aware of the persuasive intent. (2008)” Personally, I never thought much of the products in movies or TV shows until now when I learned about it in my Master’s program. I wonder if this will have an impact on me and my shopping habits from now on. Cowly and Barron suggests the following about people who are aware of product placements, “When people with high levels of program liking see a prominent product placement, they may interpret the placement to be an attempt to influence the viewer, which could interrupt the viewing experience. (2008)” Cowly and Barron have a good point. I think now that I know what product placement is, I know the power of influence that it can have on me. I can stop that influence by knowing why the product ads are in my favorite TV shows or movies. Let’s discuss a few examples of product placement. Do you remember the 1992 movie Wayne’s World? In the movie, Wayne actually pokes fun of product placement when he is asked to promote sponsors like Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and Doritos.  Wayne states, “I will not bow to any sponsors.” However, Mike Myers, the actor playing Wayne, is bowing down to sponsors. Even Garth was wearing Reebok clothes. The movie may have been poking fun of product placement; however, the ads were still viewed by many people. Most likely, the sales for Pizza Hut, Pepsi, Doritos, and Reebok went up after people watched the movie. What about a more recent example like an Apple MacBook in the Twilight films? Do you remember the scene where Bella is sitting, typing away on her laptop? How many teens and young adults probably bought an Apple product just because they saw Bella Swan using an Apple product? After that movie, the sales most likely went up for Apple too. How does product placement work? Cowly and Barron states the following happens during the first and second exposure of product placement, “the first exposure to a product placement allows the consumer to have a more positive brand attitude without realizing they saw the product placement. The second exposure to a product placement allows for consumers to have a memory of the brand. (2008)” Say you went to the theater and watched the movie Twilight twice; now you have a memory of an Apple laptop in your head. What if you are shopping for a new laptop a few months later? Chances are you are going to buy an Apple product because now you have that memory of Bella using her Apple MacBook. Cowly and Barron suggests that when a movie plot and the product placement are connected together in the movie, the consumer is likely to connect those feelings of the plot with the product ad. (2008) For example, in the 1996 movie Happy Gilmore, Adam Sandler’s character has to endorse Subway commercials in order to get his grandmother’s house back. Viewers then make a connection between Subway and the warm, cozy feeling that they get when they watch Happy Gilmore get the money to buy his grandma’s house back. Therefore, those viewers are going to think a Subway sandwich will make them warm and cozy thus increasing sales revenue. Prominence plays a big part in the persuasion process of product placements. Size of the product or logo, duration on the screen, strength of a placement, the centrality of the product or logo to the plot, and the number of times that the product is mentioned all have an impact on the viewers. (Cowley & Barron, 2008) The more a product is on the screen and the more direct the product is on the screen; the more likely it is that the product placement will persuade the viewers to buy the product. However, this can backfire because, “if the placement product is seen as more than a prop used to create a setting than this could be upsetting to higher in program liking viewers. (Cowley & Barron, 2008)” So really it just depends on if the viewer’s know exactly what product placement is while they are watching their favorite movies or TV shows. The more knowledge a viewer has about product placements and how they are used to persuade viewers, the less likely the product placement will work on the viewer. However, there is still a place for product placement in the marketing world, because it has an advantage over traditional commercial ads due to its hidden motive of persuasion. (Cowley & Barron, 2008) When a commercial for Coca Cola comes on, you know right away they are trying to get you to buy and drink their products; however, if you see a random Coca Cola can sitting on a table during a movie, you probably will not give it a second thought. However, the next time you stop at a gas station for a drink, you are more likely to buy a Coca Cola. Another effective product placement is the following example: when a viewer associates a brand and an experience with a character’s very essence. For example, when viewers see James Bond drinking a Smirnoff martini, they assume the drink will make them dashing and daring like James Bond. (Huffington Post) However, we all know that a drink does not really make a person act bold. Having said that, there are people out there that will try to imitate certain celebrities on TV to the point that they will wear the same brands, buy the same drinks, etc. to feel like they are a part of the celebrity’s life. If you would like to read more about product placement, please check out these references:

Cowley, E., & Barron, C. (2008). WHEN PRODUCT PLACEMENT GOES WRONG. Journal Of Advertising, 37(1), 89-
98. doi:10.2753/JOA0091-3367370107

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