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Technology Puts a New Spin on Product Placement

March 28th, 2017   ||    by Monta Monaco Hernon   ||    No Comments

Technology has given consumers more ways than ever to view their favorite content. And, even though this proliferation has heralded the ability to skip over commercials, advertisers have also gained the means to target receptive audiences. Brands today can use data analysis to make informed decisions not only about traditional advertisements, but to place products strategically (and subtly) within programming as well—a tactic viewers can’t avoid.

Examples of product placement have been around forever—think Reese’s Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Texaco in Back to the Future Part II. It usually means big bucks, as The Balance points out, like the $14 million Ford reportedly paid to make the Mondeo James Bond’s vehicle of choice in Casino Royale.

Some examples of product placement are overt, like a conversation during Hawaii Five-O centered around Subway. And some are extremely, well, on Target—the retail giant is the favorite shopping establishment of the eponymous character in Jane the Virgin, helping Target reach Hispanic millennial fans of the show, as brandchannel explains.

Get Real

There are those who consider product placement intrusive—and some of it may be—but one argument in favor of the tactic is that it makes the programming more realistic, said House of Cards episode director James Foley in The Guardian. In other words, we don’t pull cartons out of our refrigerator labeled simply “Orange Juice.”

Some advertisers are even moving outside the show, but sticking with the theme. Brands have jumped on the Walking Dead bandwagon, according to Variety. Specifically, companies like Microsoft and Hyundai have aired commercials that would appeal to those not squeamish about watching the popular program about the undead.

Product placement isn’t going anywhere—if anything, technology is adding to the opportunities. Digital insertion has made it possible to place products during editing, rather than filming, making it less intrusive for the actors and allowing advertisers to take advantage of different market opportunities. The Guardian piece references a Sony series called Hannibal, which changed a Bentley to a Mitsubishi when the program aired in Brazil, where the car was being launched.

In for the Long Haul

Companies are also signing long-term deals with networks for the right to place products in any number of the shows the networks air. In 2013, for example, MillerCoors forged an agreement with Turner that allows the media company to work beer products—ranging from Blue Moon to Coors Light—into programming on TBS and TNT with a primary audience over 21. The beverage giant negotiated additional deals with Turner, including a “custom” dare on a program called Impractical Jokers, NASCAR sponsorship, and a launch sponsorship of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, according to Variety.

Even Netflix, which doesn’t run advertising in its original series, has been flagged as a product placement extreme, with brands such as Coca-Cola, Oreos, and Nike making guest appearances: The New York Post said that while monetary specifics have not been made public, companies could be paying anywhere from $50,000 for a brief cameo to $200,000 to become a full-fledged component of a Netflix storyline.

The options may seem endless, but what ties them all together is data, particularly the sort of data provided by automated TV buying platforms. The ability to analyze where a desired audience is—watching a live broadcast, binging on Dallas reruns, or streaming the latest Netflix series—is key to any advertiser looking to maximize his or her bang for buck.

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