Have you ever watched a movie or a television show and noticed that certain brands seem to jump out at you? A twist of a soda can here or a sign in the background that gets emphasized is considered a product placement. Some product placements may just stay in the background, but others, like a neon Coca Cola sign in Superman II, become part of the story itself. There are certain pros and cons of product placement that must be evaluated before accepting a deal, so here are some of the key points to think about.
The Pros of Product Placement
1. It helps film companies be able to pay for content creation.
Advertising has been part of the movie and television viewing experience from the very beginning. Even the earliest TV shows would have product placements or live announcements about the sponsorship of the show so that viewers would be exposed to specific brands. The money from those sponsorships brings the stories to the consumers. Without it, there would be fewer stories.
2. When done correctly, it enhances the viewing experience.
The great thing about movies and television shows is that it blends fantasy with reality to make it a viewing experience that can relate to the average person. A good show makes people feel like they are really there. Product placements that are subtle and realistic within the context of the story can help to enhance this experience. Would Bruce Wayne drive a Chevrolet? Of course not. That wouldn’t be realistic as a billionaire. A Lamborghini would make sense.
3. It increases the profit margins for film companies.
Movies and TV shows have to make money in order for them to continue producing new content. Product placements reduce the expenses needed for filming, which enhances the potential profitability of a movie. If a film costs $40 million to make, but $20 million of that is covered by product placement, then the film only needs $20 million at the box office to break even.
4. It creates a greater awareness for the brands that is positively associated with a good movie.
If people enjoy a movie and there are product placements involved with it, then those positive feelings get translated to the brand. Taco Bell had huge product placement investments into the 1990’s movie Demolition Man. The movie still has a cult following and many celebrate Taco Bell day on the anniversary of the movie’s release.
The Cons of Product Placement
1. It can interfere with the plot of the movie.
Although there are billions of dollars in advertising revenues up for grabs every year thanks to product placement, having excessive levels of advertising in a movie can be distracting. Some movies like Minority Report or The Island become known not for their plot, but because of the shameless product placements that are placed in front of viewers. Obvious product placements break people into reality.
2. It creates a cluttered screen.
Even if a director notices that the amount of products in the shot is cluttering the screen and making the acting difficult to follow, there isn’t much that they can do about it. The contracts that authorize the product placements often dictate how, when, and how often those products are displayed. Since this form of advertising has become highly competitive, the amount of clutter is only going to keep increasing.
3. It is expensive.
Movies and TV shows have a global reach that hits billions of people. That means advertising through a product placement isn’t going to be cheap. It’s almost always going to be a 7 figure investment for a minimal placement and likely $10 million or more for a brand to be involved with the plot of the movie. Heineken, for example, paid $45 million to have James Bond stop drinking martinis and start drinking their beer.
4. Competitive brands can cancel each other out.
Some movies and shows include so many different product placements from within the same industry that the effect of the advertising gets canceled out. If too many brands from the same industry are seen by viewers, then there is no loyalty created. That’s why you never really see Burger King in the same movie with McDonald’s.
The pros and cons of product placement show that it can be a beneficial relationship for everyone involved when done correctly. Most of the negatives in product placement can be attributed to an over-indulgence into this advertising medium. Take a look at your favorite movies or shows, see what brands you recognize, and then consider what brands you purchase. There’s a good chance they match.