Thursday, March 31, 2005

Product Placements in TV, Films Soar

Yahoo! News - Product Placements in TV, Films Soar, Study Finds

“Product placement” and other subliminal and viral ads are intended to circumvent the natural skepticism we bring to commercial messages clearly demarcated as advertising. If we know it is a commercial, we recognize that someone is trying to sell us something and are on our guard against self-serving statements and omissions. But if we do not know, we subconsciously associate the product with the story in a way that makes the case under the radar of our ability to assess the message rationally.

Children’s understanding of the line between telling a story and selling a product is uncertain. And tweens and teens, eagerly sought as consumers by those who are after their $175 billion in spending power, are especially vulnerable to subtle marketing outside the boundaries of advertising that associates products with “cool” celebrities.

When ads are reinforced by subliminal marketing, the message becomes exponentially more powerful. A study by Susan Auty and Charlie Lewis exposed children of two different age groups (6–7 and 11–12) in classrooms to a brief film clip. Half of each class was shown a scene from Home Alone that shows Pepsi Cola being spilled during a meal. The other half was shown a similar clip from Home Alone but without branded products. All children were invited to help themselves from a choice of Pepsi or Coke at the outset of the individual interviews. Those who had seen the branded clip made a significantly different choice of drink. The responses to the interviews suggest that it is not simply exposure to the film but rather previous exposure together with a reminder in the form of recent exposure that affects choice.

Advertisers are increasing the resources put into product placement on television as a way of circumventing not just our ability to ignore (or change the channel or fast forward through) commercials but also restrictions on the limited time available for commercials. Joe Mandese wrote in Media Post that “One of the fastest forms of TV-related marketing wasn't advertising at all. It was the burgeoning practices of program product placement. While Nielsen's new product placement tracking service does not provide explicit dollar values to such deals, Nielsen said the top 10 brands more than doubled the number of product plugs compared with the first nine months of 2003. The top 10 brands generated 8,145 ‘occurrences’ on network TV during the first three quarters of 2004, led by Coca-Cola Classic (2,245 exposures) and Pepsi (1,109). The top 10 programs that featured product placements accounted for 18,454 brand occurrences. American Idol tops the list, largely due to the program's relationship with Coca-Cola. Other reality programs that feature frequent brand occurrences include The Apprentice, Pepsi Smash, and Big Brother 5.”

In February of this year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that consumers do not need to be informed that product placement in television shows may have been paid for and could constitute an "advertisement." The children who saw Are We There Yet? were exposed to product placements from: Akademiks, Atlanta Braves, blue marlin, BMW, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Capri Sun, Coca-Cola, Detroit Tigers, eBay, Ecko Unltd, Fairmont Hotel, Fila, Ford, Formula 409, Fram, Gumout, Icekol, Jordan, Kenworth, Lincoln Navigator, Major League Baseball, Mastercard, Minnesota Twins, Motomedia, Motorola, Nextel, NFL, Nike, Nintendo, Oakland A’s, Paul Frank, Phat Farm, Pittsburg Pirates, Porsche, Portland Trailblazers, St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Hilfiger, U-Haul, VIA Rail Canada, Victorinox Swiss Army, Visa, Wilson -- that averages out to just under one product for every two minutes of screen time. Advertisers pay billions of dollars to get these products in movies, television programs and now even in hip-hop songs because they believe it will make consumers want them, yet will not allow them to be considered "commercials."

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