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What Is Product Placement: Types and Examples of Advertising

Date: 2024-06-20 | Time of reading: 9 minutes (1781 words)

Advertising has long penetrated into movies, computer games, and other content, often in a native form, where the product is integrated into the plot instead of being directly advertised with a call to action. Such seemingly casual mentions constitute product placement, which has become a whole industry and entered popular promotion channels. The market for this direction is growing every year: if in 2023 the investment amounted to nearly $30 billion, then by 2026 it is forecasted to grow to $41 billion.

Integration of advertising into content is costly, but businesses are willing to pay because this format can increase brand recognition and boost sales. In this article, we'll delve into what product placement is, its types, and the benefits it brings to companies.

What is product placement and why is it needed

Product placement is the most native advertising of a product or company in content: movies, cartoons, computer games, music videos, and even books. The mention or demonstration of the brand is seamlessly integrated into the narrative and becomes a part of it. This format is not even perceived as advertising, unlike placements on social media, websites, and other resources.

Interestingly, the first product placement appeared in painting. In Eduard Manet's painting "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" (1882), a bottle of "Bass" ale was placed on the counter alongside other bottles. It featured the recognizable logo of the product produced by a well-known brewery company of that time. It is unknown whether the artist added such an image for payment or simply depicted the spirit of the time.

Product placement is an opportunity to:

  • Expand the audience and increase recognition because millions of people watch movies, play computer games, which are not always accessible through other channels.

  • Shape the right image of a product or company. With skillful product placement, brand products are showcased in a positive context, shaping the desired business associations with the product. For example, a certain brand of sunglasses becomes the attribute of a strong hero who evokes admiration. And negative characters are prohibited from using Apple products on screen. Mercedes-Benz forced filmmakers to blur all their logos in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire." Such brand advertising created negative associations with poverty depicted on screen when cars of this brand drove by.

  • Boost sales of brand products. For example, after the release of the "Barbie" movie, purchases of Mattel dolls increased by 25% compared to the previous year. The company prepared for such growth and even released a new collection.

Types of product placement

Product placement is divided into several types:

TypeDescription
Visual demonstrationThe product itself, a logo or other elements that clearly hint at a certain brand appear in the frame. This type is direct product placement, which is often used in movies.
Verbal referenceThe brand is not shown on the screen, but it is talked about in the context of a conversation. Such product placement in films is prescribed at the script level. For example, the hero of the movie "Call" says in one of the scenes: "Only Megafon has a connection here". And the brand mention can also be textual, when the product placement is embedded in the book.
Interaction with the productThe brand's goods are actively used in movies or even become an important part of the story. Such an example is the yellow Chevrolet Camaro car into which the autobot Bumblebee from the movie "Transformers" turns.

Product placement in games, movies, books, music videos uses such formats depending on the story and the wishes of the brands.

Advantages and disadvantages of product placement

Native advertising in audiovisual content is a powerful but ambiguous promotional tool with its own set of pros and cons.

Product placement: advantages

Wide audience reach: Content is consumed by millions of people, giving the brand a higher chance of attracting attention. Moreover, these people come from different parts of the world.

Subtle product promotion: Product placement does not include the usual product description and call to action, thus avoiding pressure on the viewer. Instead, it demonstrates the product's capabilities, allowing potential customers to evaluate its features on their own. This format is less likely to be as irritating as traditional advertising.

Unlimited lifespan: The content where the advertisement appears is created to last for many years and essentially becomes timeless. We still rewatch old movies and read books written many years ago. Therefore, advertising in such content products becomes infinite in terms of duration.

Product placement: disadvantages

Cost of placement: It is difficult to know exactly how much brands pay for placement in, for example, movies. However, it is known that these amounts are in the millions. The more potentially successful the project, the higher the price for advertising. Only brands with large promotion budgets can afford this.

Reputational risks: Native advertising in films is also linked to the personality of the actor interacting with the product. If this person gets into a situation that tarnishes their reputation, it reflects on the brand as well.

Opaque assessment of advertising results: If you decide to showcase your product through a frame in a movie, a fragment of a game, or a TV show, you must accept the fact that it is impossible to track the exact effect of such integration. The effectiveness of a product placement campaign is measured by indirect indicators, such as an increase in product sales after the release of a movie featuring the advertisement.

Examples of product placement in movies

"Back to the Future"

The film "Back to the Future" is a classic example of product placement and possibly the first thing that comes to mind when talking about advertising in movies. The legendary Nike sneakers from the second part of the trilogy have become iconic.

The Nike sneakers in Back to the future

However, in the first film, the protagonist also wears shoes from this brand. The advertisement appears right in the opening credits.

The protagonist in Back to the future also wears shoes from Nike

Additionally, in one of the shots in the second part, one of the characters is dressed in a competing brand, Adidas.

The Adidas in Back to the future

In both films, the characters drink Pepsi with designs from different eras.

A comical scene involves the brand Calvin Klein. Marty McFly's mother from the past thinks that his name is Calvin Klein because she sees the brand name on his underwear and assumes it's his name.

The brand Calvin Klein in Back to the future

"Home Alone"

The famous comedy also features quite a bit of advertising. In the first film, the characters only drink Pepsi.

However, in the second part, "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," they switch to Coca-Cola.

The plot includes advertising for the airline American Airlines.

Santa Claus gives Kevin Tic Tacs instead of candy, which he has run out of.

Santa Claus gives Kevin tic tacs in Home alone

In a store, the young protagonist buys Tropicana juice and Tide detergent along with other items.

The young protagonist buys Tropicana juice and Tide

The burglars track Kevin in a Dodge vehicle.

In the second film, some scenes were shot in the legendary Plaza Hotel in New York.

The legendary Plaza Hotel in New York

In one scene, even the hotel's owner, Donald Trump, appears, with Kevin asking him for directions.

The hotel's owner, Donald Trump with Kevin in Home Alone

"Forrest Gump"

In the story, several well-known magazines are visible multiple times: People, Life, Playboy, and Fortune. Some are read by the characters, and in one, Forrest Gump himself appears on the cover.

The film features advertisements for Dr. Pepper and 7up sodas, as well as Budweiser beer.

Forrest runs in Nike sneakers and gear, seamlessly integrated into the plot.

The character receives a letter from Apple.

Letter from Apple as product placement

"The Devil Wears Prada"

This film lived up to its name and became a showcase for luxury brands.

In the opening scenes, the fashion magazine editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly, enters with a Prada handbag.

Prada handbag as product placement

The mention of this brand also appears on a poster in the office.

Prada poster as product placement

Miranda arrives at work in a Mercedes.

Mercedes as product placement

She gets coffee from Starbucks.

Coffee from Starbucks as product placement

In the magazine office, employees use Apple equipment.

Of course, in a film about the fashion world, one of the most famous luxury brands appears. Anne Hathaway's character undergoes a transformation and wears Chanel jewelry, while Miranda receives a gift from the fashion house, seen behind her in a bag.

"Twilight"

In the first part of the saga, vampires drive Volvo and Mercedes cars.

"Avengers: Endgame"

Only a few brands could afford advertising in the highest-grossing film in the world as of 2019. In one scene, the Citi bank logo appears.

Citibank commercial in the movie Avengers

And Robert Downey Jr.'s character drives a stylish Audi.

Robert Downey Jr.'s Audi

"Transformers"

In the film, the yellow-and-black Chevrolet Camaro becomes a story hero — the Autobot robot Bumblebee.

Product placement in Transformers, the Bumblebee vehicle

Summary

Product placement is the promotion of brands through visual demonstration or mention in audiovisual content such as movies, music videos, games, and more. This type of advertising subtly forms a positive image of the product or company, expands the audience, and works indefinitely. The brand is shown visually, mentioned, or even integrated into the plot so that the characters interact with its products.

Despite its advantages, product placement is expensive, so it is usually used by high-end brands. It's also challenging to track the actual effect and depends on the reputation of the celebrities who advertise the product on screen.

Today, brand integration into multimedia content remains relevant, and investments in this direction continue to grow.

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Author: Ksenia Yugova

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