Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Will Product Placement Be a Panacea?

Product placement is being served up as the all-purpose answer to zapping, TiVo, DVRs and all manner of consumers’ attention deficit to commercials. Pundits are forecasting a shift of ad dollars to product placement that is expected to reach 1 Billion by next year.

Product placement is in every media and every vehicle. Syndicators and even print publishers are finding new ways to jump on this bandwagon; a tactic that has been around since the early days of television.

The real questions are: does placement drive awareness, sampling or purchase and if everyone is doing it will individual placements be distinctive enough to make a difference?

Consider Apple; masters at the placement art. Their technology has been in countless movies and associated with memorable sequences and the hottest stars. They have a reputation for creating cool products. They have a small share of the overall market but high awareness and loyalty among a hip, fashion-forward, opinion leading psycho-demographic segment. But did seeking an iMac or a Powerbook in a film used by Tom Cruise or George Clooney make this happen or does it simply validate the expectations of Apple fans?

Part of the dynamic of product placement is an underlying fantasy about e-commerce that dates to the early days of the Internet. In this persistent fantasy, which is fuelled by data about multiple simultaneous media usage, consumers watch their favorite show on either a TV or a computer. As they watch they can click on items and buy as they watch.

The logic is that people self-select their entertainment and their favorite artists. We know that artists and stars sell products. What we don’t know is if the sales are a result of placement and proximity or if the sales are a result of either the star’s individual brand power or the attraction of a lifestyle that a star or an artist might represent or be integral to.

There is and has been product placement. There is no common source of data to measure the impact of this communications tactic. Stay tuned for the claims and counter claims as the cost increases and availability decreases.

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