Product placement on TV

I've already blogged about product placement in movies and novels, as well as songs. According to the International Journal of Advertising  ((International Journal of Advertising, 2008, 27 (4), pp. 495-509)), “Although brand appearances in popular culture may be motivated by creative considerations, such as the desire to lend verisimilitude to a drama or a novel, when such references result from commercial considerations (i.e. brand owners are charged for brand’s appearance) the practice is considered brand placement.”

As far as TV goes, brand placement has been a more rare occasion there. After all, TV has always had an opportunity of interrupting any program by a series of ads.  However, ad spend has decreased over the years, with advertisers increasingly aware of the fact that TV viewers simply "switch off" during ad breaks, which essentially means money wasted on ad production and placement.

Product placement in TV shows and soaps is a more gentle, and yet at the same time more invasive form of brand promotions. It's gentle because it doesn't interrupt anything -- you can go on watching your soap. And yet, it's more invasive because it's much more difficult for a viewer to change channels simply because someone is flashing a can of Coke on the screen. So, you just go on watching, and getting your brain stuffed with program content, along with brand names that go along with it.  In the UK, for example, TV channels have had to make a big effort to avoid featuring branded goods up till now.

"In dramas a canned drink is always held in such a way that the logo is obscured by the actor's hand; products appearing in shot during "reality" shows often have their labels obscured in post-production by patches of blur, " says Tim Hayward on Guardian's Word of Mouth blog.

At the end of February this year, Hayward writes, it will be possible  to place branded goods on UK's TV and radio channels. Will this help TV to generate enough cash to improve the quality of programs? And if yes, will it be done in a way that will not annoy TV consumers too much?

Brands in songs

I've written about product placement in movies and novels, and today I am going to touch upon another interesting medium -- songs. Two marketing professors from US universities, Federico de Gregorio and Yongjun Sung, analyzed almost 4 000 songs that appeared in top 10 music charts from 1955 to 2002. (( Giving a shout out to Seagram's Gin: extent of and attitudes towards brands in popular songs. F. de Gregorio and Y. Sung, Journal of Brand Management (2009) 17, 218–235 ))

Photo by Cameron Cassan on Flickr

Their empirical study has concluded the following:

  • there has been a significant growth in brand mentions in songs over decades
  • a particularly big spike in brand mentions began around 1995
  • alcohol, automotive and fashion brands are most common in songs
  • consumers perceive brand mentions in songs less favorably than in movies, yet they are not overall very negative
  • the most appropriate genres of music for brand placement are hip-hop and rap.

Brand mentions are not a totally  new phenomenon. Listen to this song, Budweiser's a friend of mine, that came out back in 1905:

Most of brand mentions in songs happen organically, with nobody paying for their appearance. However, there are some agencies that specialize in brand placement in songs, targeting almost exclusively hip hop and rap artists.

It's clear that brands are becoming part of popular culture, and their increasing appearance in songs is a good proof of this interesting phenomenon.

What songs with brand mentions do you know?

Sex and the City demographic: does it exist?

The iconic TV show Sex and the City ran from 1998 until 2004. The main characters were women with their changing attitudes towards sex, dating, and being single. Supporters of the show say that it correctly portrays lifestyles of many urban Americans, especially those who are still single in their thirties and fourties.[1] Although the show has focused on many growing trends in the urban America, as well as abroad (e.g. in London)[2], I was surprised to find very little influence of the show on any serious demographic research. Although I could easily imagine lots of people, especially women, leading lifestyles resembling those of Samantha, Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda, I desperately searched for what could be called the "Sex and the City demographic." At the same time, facts speak for themselves: Ø More middle-aged people than ever before are single. For instance, in 2004 in the US, 32.2% of males aged 30-34 and 23.7% of women of the same age group had never been married, 23.4% of males between 35-39, and 14.6% of women, and 17.6% of men between 40-44, and 12.2% women had never been married.[3]

Ø Many middle-aged professionals prefer to move to cities such as NYC and London because these cities can give them greater career opportunities, a better social life and more “buzz”, translating to more opportunities for meeting people

Ø Women´s participation in the labor force has risen significantly since 1979; nonetheless some data suggest that career-oriented women place more value on “sex” (i.e. relationships and having a family) than on the “city” (i.e. a career in an urban setting) and give high importance to meeting men.[4]

Ø There has been a significant rise in divorce rates. US Census figures show that the percentage of Americans divorced between 40 and 54 in 1995 made up nearly 14 percent of the population, up from 11 percent in the eighties.[5]

Ø Young women outnumber young men in urban areas throughout Western Europe. This occurs because cities offer more opportunities for highly paid jobs to males, and as a result, attract women (both skilled and unskilled) interested in finding a professionally successful male partner.[6]

Ø Many urbanites spend considerable amounts of time in searching for potential mates. “The demographic heterogeneity and density of the city also allow for diverse sexual lifestyles and the possibility of mixing with socially distant others, both alternatives that are largely unavailable to many rural populations.”[7]

Ø Thus, cities present environments where search activities are heightened and “potential opportunities (for meeting mates) are stunningly diverse.”[8]

With this in mind, I decided to research "The Sex and the City demographic" as I have a stunning business idea that will fit these people´s needs just right! ;)

[1] Sex and the City, CBC News Viewpoint , March 25, 2004, [2] See paper on the Sex and the City effects in London, UK: Sex and Not the City? The Aspirations of Thirty-something Working Woman, Joanna Brewis, Urban Studies, Vol. 41, Nr. 9, 1821-1838, August 2004 [3] [4] Ibid. [5] Suddenly Single in the Suburbs, and in Middle Age, Nancy Rubin, The New York Times, December 28, 1997 [6] Sex and the City, Lena Edlund, Columbia University, Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 107 (1), 25-44, 2005, [7] Laumann, Edward O., Stephen Ellingson, Jenna Mahay, and Anthony Paik, editors The Sexual Organization of the City., [8] Ibid.