Product placement, or embedded marketing, is a type of advertising, in which promotional advertisements placed by marketers using real commercial products and services in media, where the presence of a particular brand is the result of an economic exchange. It is also known as product integration, especially when the product becomes integral to the plot. When featuring a product is not part of an economic exchange, it is called a product plug. A few countries, notably the United Kingdom, do not permit product placement in domestically produced films.
Product placement appears in plays, film, television series, music videos, video games and books. Product placement occurs with the inclusion of a brand's logo in shot, or a favorable mention or appearance of a product in shot. This is done without disclosure, and under the premise that it is a natural part of the work. Most major movie releases today contain product placements. The most common form is movie and television placements and more recently computer and video games. Recently, websites have experimented with in-site product placement as a revenue model.
Another early example in film occurs in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra where a young boy with aspirations to be an explorer displays a prominent copy of National Geographic. Another is in the 1949 film Love Happy, in which Harpo Marx cavorts on a rooftop among various billboards and at one point escapes from the villains on the old Mobil logo, the "Flying Red Horse".
In other early media, e.g. radio in the 1930s and 1940s and early television in the 1950s, programs were often underwritten by companies. "Soap operas" are called such because they were initially underwritten by consumer packaged goods companies such as Procter & Gamble or Unilever. Sponsorship still exists today with programs being sponsored by major vendors such as Hallmark. Incorporation of products into the actual plot of a TV show is generally called "brand integration". A recent example is HBO's Sex in the City, where the plot revolved around, among other things, Absolut Vodka, a campaign upon which one of the protagonists was working, and a billboard in Times Square, where a bottle prevented an image of the model from being pornographic. Knight Rider, a TV series featuring a talking Pontiac Trans Am, is another example of brand integration.
The earliest example of product placement in a computer or video game occurs in the 1984 game Action Biker for KP's Skips crisps. Video games, such as Crazy Taxi feature real retail stores as game destinations. However, sometimes the economics are reversed and video game makers pay for the rights to use real sports teams and players. Today, product placement in online-video is also becomming common. Online agencies are specializing in connecting online-video producers, which are usually individuals, with brands and advertisers.
Sometimes, product usage is negotiated rather than paid for. Some placements provide productions with below-the-line savings, with products such as props, clothes and cars being loaned for the production's use, thereby saving them purchase or rental fees. Barter systems (the director/actor/producer wants one for himself) and service deals (cellular phones provided for crew use, for instance) are also common practices. Producers may also seek out companies for product placements as another savings or revenue stream for the movie, with, for example, products used in exchange for help funding advertisements tied-in with a film's release, a show's new season or other event.
A variant of product placement is advertisement placement. In this case an advertisement for the product (rather than the product itself) is seen in the movie or television series. Examples include a Lucky Strike cigarette advertisement on a billboard or a truck with a milk advertisement on its trailer.
According to PQMedia, a consulting firm that tracks the product placement market, 2006 product placement was estimated at $3.07B rising to $5.6B in 2010. However, these figures are somewhat misleading in PQMedia's view in that today, many product placement and brand integration deals are a combination of advertising and product placement. In these deals, the product placement is often contingent upon the purchase of advertising revenues. When the product placement that is bundled with advertising is allocated to part of the spending, PQMedia estimates that product placement is closer to $7B in value, rising to $10B by 2010.
A major driver of growth for the use of product placement is the increasing use of digital video recorders (DVR) such as TiVO which enable viewers to skip advertisements. This ad skipping behavior increases in frequency the longer a household has owned a DVR.
Other times, vehicles or other products take on such key roles in the film it's as if they are another character. In Desperate Housewives three of the characters drive Nissans, and the camera view often focuses on the Nissan symbol on someone's car, also the character Gabrielle Solis can also be seen driving an Aston Martin DB9 Volante prominently. Nissan cars also feature prominently in the 'Heroes' TV show, the logos often zoomed in/out of or whole cars shown for a few seconds at the beginning of a new scene. In The Matrix Reloaded, a key chase scene is conducted between a brand new Cadillac CTS and a Cadillac Escalade EXT. The chase scene also features a Ducati motorcycle in the getaway. Three of the James Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan featured a BMW car before fan outcry pressured the producers to return to using the traditional Aston Martin. In addition, a Shelby GT500 is used very extensively at the beginning of I Am Legend. In the 2008 movie Taken Leam Neeson drives AUDI cars, first an A3 and a S8 in the final high speed scene on the streets of Paris.
Apple's products frequently appear in films and on television, Apple has stated that they do not pay for this.. (Notably, recognizable Apple products have appeared in newspaper comic strips, including Opus, Baby Blues, Non Sequitur, and FoxTrot, even though paid placement in comics is all but unknown.) In a twist on traditional product placement, Hewlett-Packard computers now appear exclusively as part of photo layouts in the IKEA catalog in addition to placing plastic models of its computers in IKEA stores, having taken over Apple's position in the Swedish furniture retailer's promotional materials several years ago. Hewlett-Packard also put their computers in the US production of The Office.
Within the United Kingdom, product placement is banned. A recent EU directive would have allowed it, however culture secretary Andy Burnham refused to accept it, and it appears likely the UK will introduce laws to fully outlaw it, whereas in the past it was only regulated by OFCOM.
Reviewing previously secret tobacco advertising documents, the British Medical Journal concluded:
The tobacco industry recruits new smokers by associating its products with fun, excitement, sex, wealth, and power and as a means of expressing rebellion and independence. One of the ways it has found to promote these associations has been to encourage smoking in entertainment productions.1 Exposure to smoking in entertainment media is associated with increased smoking and favourable attitudes towards tobacco use among adolescents.2–8
While the tobacco industry has routinely denied active involvement in entertainment programming, previously secret tobacco industry documents made available in the USA show that the industry has had a long and deep relationship with Hollywood. Placing tobacco products in movies and on television (fig 1Go), encouraging celebrity use and endorsement, advertising in entertainment oriented magazines, designing advertising campaigns to reflect Hollywood's glamour, and sponsoring entertainment oriented events have all been part of the industry's relationship with the entertainment industry.How the tobacco industry built its relationship with Hollywood, BMJ 2002
The film The Island, directed by Michael Bay, features at least 35 individual products or brands, including cars, bottled water, shoes, credit cards, beer, ice cream, and even a search engine. The film was highly criticized for this. In movie's DVD Commentary track, Michael Bay claims he added the advertisements for realism purposes.
The comedy film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby also contained a high amount of product placement. Characters repeatedly mention brands under the disguise of NASCAR sponsorship. The movie contains possibly the first instance of an actual television commercial in a movie. It was intended to mock the controversy with NASCAR fans under the Unified Television Contract 2001-06 where they criticised the excessive number of commercial breaks during races.
The 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats featured a large amount of blatant product placement for brands such as Puma, Target, McDonalds and TJ Maxx. This appears to be done ironically, as the plot of the film revolves around subliminal messages in advertising. The film's general message can also be construed as an anti-consumerist one.
The Japanese animated series Code Geass is sponsored by the Japanese branch of Pizza Hut. Despite the fact that the series is set in an alternate reality, at least one main character is depicted ordering and receiving a Pizza Hut pizza on several occasions. The company's logo also appears throughout the series.
The 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes utilized the concept in a parodic way. At one point the film stops due to money shortage and we see George Clooney as the producer suggest product placement. Follow several scenes with too-obvious product placement, like a big Pepsi billboard installed in front of the villain's mansion
The film Minority Report, makes heavy use of product placement, including Coca-Cola, Gap, and Lexus. Director Steven Spielberg also uses one scene to criticize advertising: the main character (Tom Cruise) is harassed by personalised advertisements calling out his own name.
The film "Wayne's World" included a parody in which both Wayne and Garth decry product placement while at the same time clearly endorsing products.
The film Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, bit the hand that fed it by depicting acts of violence against most of the products that paid to be placed in the film. Examples include the scene where the Apple Store is broken into, the scene in which Brad Pitt and Edward Norton smash the headlights of a new Volkswagen Beetle, and trying to blow up a 'popular coffee franchise', a thinly veiled dig at Starbucks.
The comedy film Kung Pow! Enter the Fist also attempted to spoof its product placements, clearly pointing out the anachronistic inclusion of a Taco Bell in the film. In a similar vein, in Looney Tunes: Back In Action the main characters stumble across a Wal-Mart while stranded in the middle of Death Valley and get all necessary supplies for their endorsement of the company.
Some filmmakers have responded to product placement by creating fictional products that frequently appear in the movies they make. Some examples:
This practice is also fairly common in certain comics, such as Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon, which makes several product-placement-esque usages of "Pawky", (a modification of the name of the Japanese snack "Pocky", popular among the anime and manga fan community in which the story is set) or Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon, which includes numerous references to the series Codename: Sailor V which Sailor Moon was spun off of; the anime makes further use of this meta-referential gag, going so far as having an animator on a Codename: Sailor V feature film be a victim in one episode.
This practice is also common in certain "reality-based" video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series which feature fictitious stores such as Ammu-Nation, Vinyl Countdown, Gash (spoofing Gap. Another spoof was made in GTA: San Andreas with Zip), Pizza Boy, etc.
In the 1984 cult film Repo Man, a reverse form of product placement is used, with an exaggerated form of 1980's era generic packaging used on products prominently shown on-screen (these include "Beer", "Drink", "Dry Gin" and "Food - Meat Flavored"). Reportedly, this was done out of necessity after an intended advertiser, who was to have used product placement, backed out in mid-production.
As of 2007, a new trend is emerging in product placement, the development of capabilities that permit dynamic or switchable product placement. Previously post production tools have permitted one time insertion of new product placement images and billboard advertising, notable in televised at baseball and hockey games. As of 2007, startups are offering or developing the ability to switch product placement. First generation virtual product placement has tended to be based upon sports arenas where the geometrical relationships of camera and the surface of the flat area onto which the billboard is projected, can be easily calculated. Second generation product placement or dynamic product placement is more focused upon commercial products. Third generation virtual or dynamic product placement allows targeting of customers with different products that can be dynamically switched based upon such factors as demographics, psychographics or behavioral information about the consumer. Also of interest are hypervideo techniques that can insert interactive elements into online video.
Another example is The Coca-Cola Kid a 1985 movie about an employee of the Coca Cola company. In this case, however, the film was not sponsored by the company. Similarly, Kodak and Nikon did not have anything to do with Paul Simon's decision to write a song about his Kodachrome film and his Nikon camera though, presumably, they benefitted from the exposure.
Recently there has been an increased number of subliminal messages and product placement examples in reality tv-shows. For example a famous russian tv show Dom-2 (Similar to Big Brother (TV series) very often features one of the participants stating something along the lines of: "Oh, did you check out the new product X by company Y yet?" After which the camera zooms in onto the named product. It has been stated that the participants get paid for it, however it is unclear wheather the show itself has anything to do with it.