Product placement, also know as brand integration or embedded marketing, is an advertising technique used by companies in general to subtly promote their products. Through this method, brands or their products are embedded in television shows, films, reality shows and other media available. There have been cases of extreme placement situations, similar to what we experienced in Jim Carey’s The Truman Show, which have raised criticisms from professionals and the audience in general.
Critics have deemed it as a dishonest method, seeing as there is no previous warning to when and which products or brands would be advertised.
Netflix’s House of Cards is a good example of a recent and infamous use of very obvious product placement. From BlackBerry, Dell and Samsung to Chevrolet and Apple, among others, there were throughout the show, very clear attempts of advertising. Personally, the worst scene was the one where anti-hero Frank Underwood sits down in a friend’s living room, picks up Sony’s latest console and remarks, “Is that a PS Vita? (…) I ought to get one of these for the car”. Similar to these shows there are currently others airing on our television that makes the most use of this technique without consumers even realizing it.
In today’s society, this strategy seems to have become marketers biggest weapon to reach the younger generation.
Going in accordance with PQ Media’s reports on growth of brands’ social media sponsorships investment, there has been a significant evolution of product placement caused by its combination with a type of parasocial interaction (PSI).
A good example of that comes from the widely known Kardashian family’s show. Through their show and correspondent social media channels, they (particularly sisters Kim, Kendall and Kylie) have created a perceived relation/interaction with their followers, viewers and fans to such an extent that most don’t realize that their nonsensical conversations and supposedly friendliness towards them is part of a very well oiled billion dollar business making machine. This is all due to the familiar nature of their family portrait and behaviours. Contrary to most celebrities who advertise in professional manner, with images and phrases that were clearly written by a PR, the Kardashians talk to their audience as if they were to a family member or friend. Asking them opinions about trivial matters of their personal lives and using millions of different digital tools to make the audience feel like they know them. With this method, when they trivially mention how they “are obsessed with the A app” or “how good B cream feels” it doesn’t feel like an advertisement, but a recommendation of a friend.
For us as consumers, who normally have our advertising-guard on and are fairly prepared to tune them out on social media and TV, we let our guard down and, without realizing it, become obsessed with the items too.
With trends, consumers’ minds and technologies constantly evolving, will product placement remain as it is, or will it also evolve until it’s completely different to what is now?
The answer, I suppose, will only become clear with time.