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The three golden rules of product placement


Product placement (PP) is a popular marketing strategy in which products are advertised by showing them in the context of TV shows, movies, soaps, music clips and even video games. Iconic examples are the Aston Martin bolides featured in James Bond movies and the Mini Coopers featured in The Italian Job.

The main assumption of using PP is that it is less pushy than traditional advertising. It has a much more implicit effect. By seeing your favorite star using the product in a non-advertising context, you might be convinced unconsciously to use the product yourself. Of course, the danger exists that people watching the program don’t even notice the product.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand the actual effect of PP and to learn how you can increase its impact. Recently, market research company Profacts thoroughly investigated the real impact of PP, using a traditional online survey and more innovative neuromarketing techniques.

In an online survey among 1000 Dutch speaking Belgians we asked about the knowledge, the familiarity and the attitude towards PP. In addition, biometric measurements and eye movements of 40 people were registered while watching a series of TV shows in our dedicated ImpulseTM Laboratories. These people were unaware of the fact that the study was about PP and only after viewing the TV shows, they were asked questions about the brands they saw and about PP in general.

This research unveiled three surprising golden rules to make PP more successful.

Product Placement Logo
PP logo

First Golden Rule: Make PP conscious.

In contrast to the common belief, you do not have to hide the PP logo as much as possible to avoid resistance of your audience. Our results show that the more viewers are aware of the presence of PP, the more it will be effective.

We found out that only 20% of the Belgians are familiar with the PP logo. Interestingly, those respondents that were familiar with the PP logo and what it stands for could recall more brands afterwards than respondents who did not know the meaning of the logo. Eyetracking results were in line with this idea. Respondents that fixated on the PP logo at the beginning of the program showed more attention towards the products that were presented during the TV show.

Good to know is that the PP logo is recognized more often by younger respondents and by male viewers. People that do not recognize the PP logo often think that it indicates that subtitles are used in the TV-show. Importantly, after explaining what PP stands for, most people were positive about product placement.

Respondents that fixated on the PP logo at the beginning of the program showed more attention towards the products that were presented during the TV show.

Second golden rule: Give your products a prominent role

The second rule is maybe less surprising, but nevertheless very important. We found that brand recall was stronger for products that were looked at more often. Presenting your product in a subtle way in the background is NOT efficient. The biggest impact was found when people in the TV show used the products themselves and when the product is part of the action.

This has two advantages:

  1. It increases the chance that people actually see the products
  2. As people are natural imitators, seeing somebody use a product triggers using the product yourself.

Third golden rule: Avoid excitement

The last rule is maybe the most surprising one. Avoid presenting your products in a highly exciting part of the TV show. The excitement will only draw attention away from your product and make PP LESS effective. We found that brand recall was stronger when people were only slightly aroused. We found out that in the context of PP, arousal is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, arousal has the advantage that people will pay more attention to the TV show, so you need a small amount of arousal. On the other hand, too much arousal will hinder the storage of product-related information in memory as attention is directed towards the highly arousing scene and makes PP less effective.