BBC plugging blackberry? What is it about product placement?
So “The Apprentice” is back and back are those much-loved shots of the best British business talent holding their smart phones like an alien tablet in front of their face as if holding it by the ear is impossible (perhaps someone can explain this to me at some point!) But hey, what’s this? A new controversy of the BBC apparently plugging the blackberry phones. I am swaying between ‘who cares’ and ‘hey, finally a brand other than apple managed to get themselves featured in a show!’.
The history of product placement as we know it
According to the historians, product placement has existed for centuries in the publishing world. Modern product placement has been around since the late 80s and and in the US this unconventional way of advertising has been used for more than 15 years.
Probably everybody will remember the blatantly set-up promotional scenes for brands in James Bond. GoldenEye promoted BMWs new Z3 model. Sales of the Z3 surged as the movie shot up to the top of the box office. There are lots and lots of other examples, some more artistic (or tasteful) than others…
There is a great YouTube video on the history of product placement.
Until recently, product placement was not allowed in UK productions, and brands that were featured as props had to rely on the enthusiasm and goodwill of the production companies. (Apple never seemed to have a problem being featured anywhere and I personally have used their laptops as props in hotel photo shoots just from an aesthetics point over other brands.)
In February this year, Ofcom set out the rules and guidelines and have thereby potentially opened the doors to a whole new advertising industry. The logo that TV channels must use to signal to viewers when a UK-produced programme contains product placement “must appear for three seconds at the start and end of programmes, and after any advertising breaks”.
Why would a brand consider product placement?
Product placement is clearly an investment for brands and gives them access to niche audiences to subtly ‘bond’ with products, to associate them with subjects they are interested in naturally and to increase brand awareness without the blatant ‘this is an advert and we are trying to sell you something now’ stigma.
It has worked for brands such as Absolut Vodka, VW, Hewlett-Packard (who have taken over from Apple in the IKEA office display areas), actually, the list is endless and includes probably pretty much every top brand in some shape or form.
Five Reasons for product placement
1. It’s not an advert as such
2. It’s exclusive and sought-after
3. The TV/film characters themselves become associated with the brand
4. Global audiences that stay ‘tuned in’
5. Fits in with the overall marketing strategy of a brand
You can track its success with basic quantitative and qualitative systems used to determine the cost and media value of a placement. Rating systems measure the type of placement. On-screen exposure is judged by recall rates of the viewers. There are different levels of exposure – from hardly identifiable to being linked to the main character – all important factors for the success of this method.
It may seem like a ‘revolution’ in advertising and marketing, but we have been exposed to product placement and brand integration in shows and movies from the US for such a long time, I am a bit surprised that Ofcom enforces the use of a ‘warning’ logo.
I wonder how this will benefit us viewers – or if we might just become blind to it and let the producers and actors have their way with us to turn us from observers into consumers (unless of course we only watch BBC shows who only use props)…