Last weekend, I watched one of my favorite movies for the umpteenth time- The Truman Show.
For those of you that haven't seen it, The Truman Show is about a man whose life is broadcast as a 24-hour-a-day television show, without his knowledge. As you watch the film, it's interesting to see how the producers (of the TV show in the movie, not of the movie itself... confused?) address the various and numerous obstacles that come with simultaneously hosting a television series and maintaining the facade of a normal life for Truman. One of these obstacles is hinted at repeatedly- how to raise revenue for a show with no commerical breaks?
In real life, television networks make almost all of their money from advertisement revenue. The network airs popular shows that keep eyes glued to the screen, and they package and sell advertising spots to corporations, independent advertising agencies, and local businesses to fill 9 minutes of a 60-minute show. On The Truman Show, there are no commercial breaks, so the producers turn to not-so-subtle product placement as a way to work in ads.
The irony is, thanks to modern DVR devices, the challenge of the fictional Truman Show producers has become a complication for real-world networks. While ad spots are not absent, viewers now have the ability to fast forward through commercial breaks. With fewer eyes glued to the screen, those 30-second spots drop in value.
Just as The Truman Show predicted, product placement has become an exceedingly popular way for advertisers to touch customers. This marketing tactic is certainly nothing new- I bet most of you can still recall E.T.'s food and beverage preferences- but it does seem to pop up even more these days. Every time I watch television, I can't help but look for examples. Some are sneaky and subtle like the branded food items in Monica's pantry on Friends, others are unabashedly straight-forward like the iPad-themed episode of Modern Family, and still others are tongue-in-cheek like any episode of 30 Rock. I haven't yet decided which approach actually works best.
Sometimes product placement is not done with the actual item, but a branded item. Take for example the judges' large cups of "Coca Cola" on American Idol. Even just the presence of Coke's brand name is enough to make viewers crave an icy soda every time a judge lifts their cup.
As a promotional marketing agency, we are constantly communicating the benefits of promotional products to our clients: longer shelf life, utile value, and targeted reach. The effectiveness of product placement provides further affirmation to arguments supporting brand recognition through product and merchandise.