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Product Placement as Targeted Marketing: Does Media Stay True to Content?


By: Megan Gray

Exploring How Social Apps are Improving Targeted Marketing

Throughout all forms of media, both digital and in print, a wide variety of advertisements and product placements take place, whether the viewer realizes it or not. As marketers we must ask ourselves if product placement is the new commercials, and do consumers welcome this form of targeted marketing?

“Branded products are no longer just placed," said Simon and David Hudson, co-authors of Branded Entertainment: A New Advertising Technique or Product Placement in Disguise? “They are woven into entertainment content, making a stronger emotional connection with the consumer”1 As a result, the industry has increased in revenue. This form of brand integration has begun to take all forms of media by storm. Traditional advertising and product placement are essential and go hand in hand in helping consumers get as much exposure to specific products and companies as possible. We believe product placement is a new and welcomed form of content marketing, which benefits not only the entertainment industry and various companies’ profitability, but the consumer’s viewing experience as well.

What is Product Placement?

If you look at some of the most iconic television shows today, more often than not you will notice product placement. It is the process in which a form of media “consists of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service, or the trade mark thereof, so that it is featured within a program, in return for payment or for similar consideration.”2 From an advertiser’s standpoint, it’s considered a smart retaliation to the declining attention span and lack of interest in regular TV commercial advertising, especially with the rise of digital streaming services that bypass traditional commercials entirely. “The practice of product (or brand) placement has grown significantly during the past 20 years; marketers now frequently use placements as the basis for multimillion dollar integrated promotional campaigns.”3 However, the viewer may not agree, claiming that these numerous product inclusions and references are a distraction and take away from the central focus of their show. Regardless, in the long run, most can’t argue that the product is stuck in their mind, and has influenced their thought processes and decision making, resulting in the ad’s success.

Is Product Placement Targeted Marketing?

From a digital standpoint, product placement comes in the forms of content marketing, Native, and influencer marketing, and social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter product placement, as well as Snapchat’s targeted mobile advertising. “By tapping into the social media realm, where huge numbers have congregated, advertisers are getting direct access to their target market. What’s more, they are doing so in a far more effective way than simply ramming their product in-between the entertainment consumers want to engage with.”4 If you decide to do some online shopping, you can be sure that the store and/or its products are about to take over your news feed, ad after ad, in order to entice you to return to the website. This serves as a powerful multitasking tool in showing the viewer all of the new and upcoming items and sales their favorite stores have to offer, in the content they’re already consuming and engaging with. Had they not received a reminder, they could have missed out on a promotion if they didn’t remember to check the company site directly. This enhances the consumer experience and builds a relationship with your brand, because consumers are relieved and satisfied when they find a great deal thanks to their social media.

Similar opportunities exist in print media advertising, as well. Think about your favorite magazine. You read through the celebrity gossip, fitness guides, horoscopes and so on, until you finally reach your favorite writer, whose topic in this month’s issue is “The Best Beauty Tips and Supplies.” The article includes an array of various make-up products, including their company brands. The writer goes on and on about how they are every woman’s “necessity” and a “must buy”. Here we see the lines between editorial and advertorial blur, but no one can deny that these pages are informative and give their readers a more personal look. Consumers are encouraged to try these products and make their own opinions about what is considered to be the new “hot” trend.

At the end of the day, highly targeted media advertising — both traditional and product placement—is successful as long as it enhances the user experience and benefits the consumer in the long run. Personally, if I could choose, I would prefer product placement to two- minute commercial interruptions every 10 to 15 minutes of a show, realizing of course that I’d have to strategically plan my snacks and bathroom breaks better.

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