Some Thoughts on Product Placement

Please take a moment and watch this YouTube video before we get started. I’d embed it here, but the person who uploaded it has disallowed embedding of the video. If you’re unable to watch, the video is a series of clips from the movie Transformers, showing the absurd amount of product placement within the film itself.

What do I mean by that? Characters are often very deliberate about using certain products, like the repeated iPod use throughout the film. The camera angles are chosen to show the logos on various products, like the Hewlett-Packard logos all over the place. Many scenes use giant corporate logos as backdrops, like key discussions that take place in front of a giant Burger King logo.

Quite often, these product placements occur in scenes that highlight a particular emotion.

An intense, exciting scene might highlight a particular product that the maker wants you to associate excitement with, like the individual getting revved up while listening to his iPod.

A sentimental scene might highlight another product that a marketer wants you to feel sentimental about, like the family using an HP computer (ridiculously marked with the HP logo on the monitor) to teleconference with a member that’s far away.

One scene might highlight attractive people (like Megan Fox) eating and include an enormous Burger King logo in the background. If we’re even slightly hungry, our hunger might be triggered and we also see someone being satisfied with food… and there’s a big logo there to remind us who made it happen!

Here’s the truth: it’s not the direct advertisements that infest television and movie watching. It’s the indirect stuff, like this, that is incorporated directly into the program I’m viewing. The emotional tint of a well-crafted movie scene ends with me staring directly at a corporate logo with an emotion created by that movie running through my head and coursing through my veins. Even if it’s not on a conscious level, I make some association of that emotion – excitement, sentiment, humor, joy – with the product or product logo I’m being shown.

That association pops up when I’m making a purchasing decision. Should I buy this item right now? If I’m hungry and I see the Burger King logo, did my hunger not take a little bit more of a bounce?

I don’t mind the use of real-world products in movies or television. The problem comes in when the movies and television programs hit certain emotional chords with the viewer, then proceed to match that emotion with logos and products. Remind me again – am I watching a television program or an advertisement? I’m also not stating that people should never watch television or movies, either.

Instead, I offer the following suggestions.

Be conscious of product placement. If you notice them doing this, then it becomes at least somewhat less effective. You’ll laugh at the product placement and they won’t get the effect that they want from it.

Don’t spend idle time watching television. If you’re sitting around with some time to burn, do something else. Read a book. Do a sudoku puzzle. Get a little bit of exercise. Practice a musical instrument. Meditate. Take a nap. Put on some music and dance. There’s nothing wrong with watching a movie or a television program if you’ve been planning on watching it, but if you’re just idly web surfing, you’re not really thinking about what you’re watching, and that’s a perfect time for product placement to strike.

Use conscious buying techniques. Before you buy anything, wait ten seconds and think about why you’re buying that item. If it’s an item that costs more than $20, give yourself thirty days to think it over (unless it’s an emergency).

Understand why you like a particular brand. “I just do” doesn’t cut it, nor does “All my friends do.” If you can’t articulate why you like a particular brand or product, then there’s likely no reason for it other than marketing.

In the end, the best solution for being successful in the modern world is to be thoughtful about what you’re doing. The more thought and consideration you put into your actions, the more likely you are to find success.

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