Product Placement Today

In the age of Snapchat and shorter attention spans, brands are finding new ways to make their presence felt.  That is in a new world order where consumers don’t mind paying that little extra to enjoy ad-free luxury.  This phenomenon explains the success of services such as Amazon Video, Netflix and YouTube Red. Watch what you want, whenever, wherever and however you want.

My dissertation almost a decade ago was on product placement, an art that advertisers have increasingly had to resort to be in the consumer sphere, so I subconsciously end up looking out for product plugs in any given frame. If the placement jars against the story-line or feels like an infomercial, my mind immediately switches off. But yes, in a commercial-free environment, piggybacking on the laurels of the ‘brandable’ feature that can even be developed by an Oscar-winning director and at its best is presented on an expansive cinema screen (3D anyone?) with surround sound, works wonders in reaching a ‘captive’ audience whether they like it or not.

If you think about it, it is a kind of marketing tool that can’t also be missed by the audience even in instances where the feature is pirated or showcased on a less than ideal cinematic platform such as an in-flight movie or mobile video. And yes I am not for once saying that traditional sitcoms and soaps don’t use product placement, more often than not the ad-breaks and the feature are sometimes indistinguishable. Some marketing agencies are so resourceful, they often get products inserted by CGI, depending on which market or year (in the case of re-runs) the feature is being aired. And in many an instance, producers plug in products themselves those that are definitive of an era in time, just to show the way of life of a given time or it’s simply a case of brand adulation.

Communications experts can help brands tread the fine line between storytelling and overkill. Paid media is such a broad canvas, so it is up to us practitioners to make branding in a shared platform such as a feature film or a series feel like brand content and not advertising.

Such product-based storytelling can be weaved into the explosion of Instagram and Snapchat stories that both top influencers and us mere mortals churn out day after day. After all telling a story convincingly and truthfully is what distinguishes one influencer from the other. So creating a narrative and experience that allows the influencer (whatever platform it may be)to truly understand the brand’s innate values and what it stands for is where we come in. This can in turn help brands achieve their communications goals and for audiences understand what they mean just as well.

Anand is the Content Manager at FH Dubai

Image by Jesse Willesee under Creative Commons License