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Product placement – the holy grail for marketing on TV?

Further to my last post and specifically the part that addressed the situation advertisers find themselves in at the mercy of the Sky Plus remote control, I thought I’d follow up with a blog concerning product placement in TV programmes.

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave and hadn’t heard, Ofcom are allowing product placement within TV shows from the end of February. Technically, product placement has been going on for years on TV, but unless a brand specifically pays the programme to include its products then it doesn’t count as product placement.

However, this got me thinking about all shows that have been broadcast here but made overseas. I remember going on a Sopranos Tour about 6 years ago through New York and New Jersey and the tour guide spent several minutes telling us how brands such as Tropicana made damn sure that when Tony Soprano opened his fridge and poured himself a nice refreshing glass of orange juice there was no way it was going to say Del Monte on the carton. It wasn’t really the sort of information that most of the tourists were expecting to be told on a locations visit – they were itching to see the car park of the diner where Chris Moltisanti was shot by Matthew Bevilaqua – but I found it pretty interesting given my line of work in business development.

When these US shows are subsequently aired in the UK I presume (though somebody correct me if I’m wrong) that this means that any international brands have effectively been getting free product placement to a British audience. And with some of these shows that become massively successful (let’s not forget the DVD box sets that will be bought and lent to everyone in the office who hadn’t seen the show) that is a truly staggering amount of coverage. Nobody is going to skip past the storyline with the remote, so you have a truly captive audience and an opportunity to raise brand awareness and win ever increasing amounts of new business from what might be a fairly reasonable price.

Of course, the first trick for brands is to identify the shows that are going to take off. Again, I’m no expert in this but I presume that some programme makers must have a deal with brands who want product placement that will take into account future repeat screenings of the programmes, DVD sales, etc, etc. After all, you can’t delete those scenes featuring product placement if they contain essential dialogue or if they are central to the story, so once the brand is in, it’s in for good.

Product placement is not confined just to television. It’s being increasingly used in areas such as computer gaming too. This is another ever-increasing market that has worldwide reach and seemingly limitless possibilities for brand marketing.

So what does the future hold for brands hoping to win more new business from product placement?

My prediction is that psychology will become increasingly involved. Suitable shows and games will be scouted out as viable marketing vehicles when they are just a glint in the writer’s eye. Within these media, brands will want to subliminally target consumers by associating certain characters or events with certain emotive decisions that the viewer makes. There will be a lot of complex research involved and even a sub-industry that develops with specialist agencies that are retained by brands to influence scriptwriters and directors to work certain situations into a show in order to increase the association we feel towards a product in relation to these situations.

And the Sky Plus remote control won’t be able to save us now.

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