Analysis of Product Placement in the Media as a Marketing Strategy

The purpose of the present study was to analyze the benefits and
limitations of product placement in the media. The findings of the study
fill the knowledge gap in the understudied area of effectiveness of
product placement as a marketing strategy. The researcher identifies
film, television programs, and computer games as the most common types
of media used in product placement. Some of the benefits of product
placement include enhanced memory of potential consumers about the
placed range of products, emphasis effect associated with product
placement, pre-determinability of product placement crowding in the
primary program or scene, high level of audience segmentation, and
impact of product placement on the preference consumption behavior of
the audience. However, there are two major factors that limit the
realization of the full benefits of product placement as a marketing
strategy. These factors include the lack of ability of marketers to
pre-plan the product awareness of the audience and attachment of the
product placement strategy to the timescale and method of use.
Key words: Product placement, marketing strategy, television programs,
computer games, films, audio-visual.
Analysis of Product Placement in the Media as a Marketing Strategy
The increasing rate of popularity of various types of media (such as
television and video games) has created a suitable mode of advertizing
products through a process known as the product placement. Petrosky,
Williams, Hernanandez & Page (2010) defines the product placement as the
decisive incorporation of some business content into a setting that is
non-commercial. In other words, product placement is achieved through
the generation of a product plug or fusion of an advert and
entertainment. Product placement is agreed between the owner of the
media and the company that produces a given product where the two
identify specific scenes in the script that are most appropriate for the
placement of products. The message about the product or brand can be
integrated into the scene in three different ways. First, a brand can be
demonstrated on a sign or a product being presented in the scene.
Secondly, the product can be used in its real purpose by the main
characters in the scene. Third, the brand or the product can be
mentioned by characters (Corniani, 2001). The integration of brand and
product in the popular modes of communication and entertainment has
continually increased the popularity and effectiveness of product
placement as a marketing strategy.
Product placement has gained popularity in the marketing industry within
a period of about three decades where marketers have adopted it as an
effective means of reaching potential customers of different age groups
and backgrounds. The term product placement was first used in the 1980s,
the actual practice of placing products in scene was started before the
invention of motion pictures (Walton, 2010). The effectiveness of the
product placement strategy adopted by marketers is affected by several
variables. First, the strategy can be visual, audio or a combination of
audio and visual messages about the product or a brand (Kramolis &
Drabkova, 2012). This means that the product or a brand can be
integrated into the scene in the form of an image or sound or a
combination of both image and sound. Secondly, the level of congruity
between the sponsor and the program determines the impact of product
placement. For example, a weak congruity results in an incredible and
inconsistent product placement. Third, the type of media determines the
group of potential customers who are reached by the placement. The
common varieties of programs are classified into four groups, namely
entertainment, informational, cultural, and sports programs. In
addition, characteristics of the target audience determine the
effectiveness of product placement. According to Bressoud (2008)
audience characteristic, duration of exposure, product recall, and
central location determine if the product placement will lead to
positive or negative effect.
Statement of problem
Product placement has become a widespread marketing alternative in the
modern world. The notable media used in product placement include the
movies, television programs, and video games (Soba & Aydin, 2013). The
Practice is also expected to grow at a rate of about 34 % annually
(Al-Kaid, 2013). The majority of marketers place their products in media
believing that the placement will attract the attention of an audience
and attract their interest in the product of a brand. However, there are
limited studies that have addressed the effectiveness of product
placement, especially the advantages and disadvantages the sponsors may
get from the product placement strategy. In addition, Winkler & Buckner
(2006) suggested that the effectiveness of entertainment approaches that
are branded is still under investigated. This paper will fill this gap
by analyzing the effectiveness of product placement critically with the
main focus on its advantages and disadvantages.
The researcher will be guided by three main research questions
including what are the major types of media that are appropriate for
product placement? What are the benefits or advantages of product
placement as a marketing tool compared to other types of marketing? What
are the limitations of using product placement as a marketing strategy?
Common types of media used in product placement
There is a wide range of media used to place different products and
brand through visual, audio or both audio and visual messages. The
placement of products in films is the most widely studied methods of
placement and accounts for about 33.87 % of the available studies on
product placement (Petrosky et al., 2010). This is because product
placement in the film scenes is believed to be the most effective means
of marketing since the majority of moviegoers take account of important
factors such as cost, experience, and time. In addition, the film
placement provides an opportunity for integration of visual messages
(85.19 %) and clear adverts (97.22 %) within the scenes (Walton, 2010).
This makes the film the most popular media for product placement
compared to other media. The common modes of product placement in movies
include audiovisual, prominence, and plot insertion (Pereira & Neijens,
Product placement in television programs is also an effective means of
advertising a product or a brand. The type of product placement allows
the marketers to use both visual and audio messages within the TV
programs, thus informing the audience and changing its attitude towards
the product (Mathur & Goswami, 2012). Ong (2004) identified that product
placement in the television programs has more benefits in terms of time
and cost of integrating information about the product or brand into
scenes compared to movies. Although the movies may be aired on the
television, product or brand placement is prepared before the program,
which requires time and funds. The effectiveness of product placement in
television programs depends on the length of time allocated for the
placement, congruence between the product and the story line, and the
audience targeted by the program. Although the product placement in
television programs has been shown to be effective, it is affected by
several factors such as the ability of viewers to shift the TV channel,
fast forwarding, or changing the program to skip the advert (Petrosky et
al., 2010).
Video or computer games have been gaining popularity with the
advancement in technology globally. The market for video game increased
from $ 2.4 in 1996 to $ 7.6 in 2006, which demonstrate a high potential
for continuous growth (Kuster, Pardo & Suemanotham, 2010). Consequently,
marketers perceive the integration of audio, visual, or audio-visual
messages about their products or brands as an effective means of
reaching potential customers. Although the cost of product placement in
video games was estimated to increase to $ 733 million in the year 2010,
its effectiveness has only been established in the creation of product
awareness while its capacity to motivate the gamers to purchase the
product is uncertain (Kuster, Pardo & Suemanotham, 2010). This suggests
that video games and other uncommon media (such as novels, magazine, and
game shows) used in product placement are still understudied.
Advantages of product placement in the media
An effective product placement increases the popularity of placed
products and brands by enhancing the memory and recall rate of potential
consumers about the placed product. According to Petrosky et al. (2010)
the congruence between the product and modalities of audio / visual
elements of a media program help the views or listeners of the program
in recognizing and recalling the brand that is well integrated into the
scene. In addition, brands that are placed through the audio-visual
means acquire recall rate compared to brands that are placed in one of
the two. However, the effectiveness of the product placement in
enhancing consumer memory and product recall can only be achieved when
the marketers and programmers integrate the advert in a way that
minimize the audience’s capacity to detect a deliberate attempt to
sell. The increase in memory and product recall rate increase the
purchasing intent among the audience, thus increase sales (Al-Kaid,
The common media used in product placement (such as film and television)
have an “emphasis effect” that permits the reproduction of real life
scenario in which the product is used in normal situations. A well
integrated product placement message allows the media programmers to
attribute the real life implications of the program without creating
unnecessary interruptions to the flow of a scene (Campbell, Mohr &
Verlegh, 2005). This perfect integration result in the natural
acceptance of the product placement in the program by audience. The
natural acceptance of the presence of the product placement, on the
other hand, creates an emphasis effect that is achieved through the use
of appropriate artifices with the capacity to attract the audience
attention to the product while retaining their interest in the scene.
Product placement has a pre-determinable brand and product crowding,
which helps the marketers and the media programmers to forecast its
effectiveness. For example, dense crowding reduces the visibility of the
primary communication or program, thus lowering efficacy of the media
employed in the process of product placement (Corniani, 2001).
Consequently, companies producing films actively contain the crowding
effect of product placement since it is of secondary importance to the
targeted audience. This implies that the media programmers should place
products in a way that they will not be perceived as disrupters, but as
factors that contribute towards the further development of the primary
scene or program. The predictability of the crowding effect of product
placement is one of the key factors that help programmers in
accomplishing this target.
Product placement has a high level of audience segmentation that allows
marketers to reach the target population with ease. According to
McDonnell & Judy (2010) the use of product placement as a marketing tool
overcomes the inherent challenge of lack of audience selectivity in
other types of marketing. For example, every movie or film is created
with special factors (such as characters or type of scene) that attract
a specific segment of the public. This means that marketers can predict
the main audience of a given film, thus place their products in films
that will be viewed by the majority of that population. Similarly, all
types of media have an audience segmentation tool that directs
communication to a particular group of audience in its distinguishing
Product placement impacts the active interest of the program audience
and provides an opportunity for sponsors to exploit their emotions. This
is because the emotional attachment of the audience to the flow of a
scene and actions in a media program may not be available in other forms
of communication. This promotes the use of placed product among the
audience who acquire the brand or product preference as well as positive
consumption behavior that is desired by the sponsor (Kozary & Baxter,
2012). The reinforced use of the product among the audience who are
aware of the placement results in an explicit processing from the
program audience, which increases brand recall and product learning. In
addition, research shows that the audience enjoys the placement as long
as it contributes towards realism of the plot of the scene. This means
that a proper integration of placement in the script will impact the
attitude of the audience and attract their interest towards the product.
Disadvantages of product placement in the media
There are two major factors that limit the efficiency of product
placement as a marketing strategy. First, it is not possible to plan the
impact of product placement on audiences’ product awareness (Corniani,
2001). This means that in spite of the fact that product placement as a
marketing tool permits an extensive programming of events and scenes,
which guarantee an accurate identity of products of the sponsor, public
awareness about the product cannot be guaranteed before the program is
viewed by the audience. This is because product awareness among the
members of the public is determined by many factors (such as the slogan
used to support the distribution of the program or film, program appeal,
critical opinion, and perception of how the brand or product is placed),
which cannot be actively controlled by the sponsor. Lack of capacity to
control methods of distribution, and timeframes in media programs limits
the sponsors’ ability to forecast the temporal as well as the spatial
distribution of communication.
Secondly, the method of use and timescales in product placement limits
the repetition and frequency of promotional messages, which are
indispensable elements in advertizing. Frequency and repetition of
advertizing messages offsets the passive attention of the audience and
reduce the rate of natural drop in brand recall (Homer, 2009). However,
since product placement is linked to factors of timing (such as possible
repeats and duration of appearance), communication should be linked to
the presence of a brand or product integrated in the scene. In addition,
product placement is linked to the form of program distribution used by
the media, which limits the repetitiveness and the number of audience
reached by the advert. For example, if a given film is unsuccessful,
product placed within its scenes will only be exposed to a few
pioneering viewers with a limited capacity for such promotional messages
to reach other distribution channels. This implies that the success of
product placement is inherently limited by the success of the media
programs in which a product is placed.
The integration of brand and product in the popular modes of
communication and entertainment has continually increased the popularity
and effectiveness of product placement as a marketing strategy.
Although product placement as a marketing tool has been in use for many
years, it has gained popularity within the last three decades. Product
placement is achieved through different types of media, but the most
common ones include the product placement in television programs, films,
and video games. Product placement in computer or video games is the one
of the fastest growing methods of placement because of the high rate of
technological advancement. This method of marketing is mainly preferred
because it has a high capacity to enhance the ability of audience to
recall the information about the product, demonstration of product’s
usage in real life situation, and active segmentation of the targeted
audience. However, the effectiveness of product placement is limited by
timeframe and methods of distribution of the media in which products are
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