A Better Course

“thou hast councilled a better course than thou hast allowed”

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In the right place, Part II

October 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

This CNN article on product placement for pharmaceuticals raises another interesting question about how we, as audiences, react to product placement – does the reference to the product necessarily have to be positive? Frequently, references to named drugs in popular culture are negative – the addictive properties of Vicodin have formed plots in more than one TV show. Although this almost certainly increases the salience of the named brand, it is hardly the kind of advertising a company would be willing to pay for.

One piece of research into the topic, from Penn State that it is likely that the viewer’s feelings towards the show in general are likely to directly affect the viewer’s feelings towards the products mentioned throughout the show. However, the nature of the placement in the experiment, in this case, is fairly neutral – the most negative emotion shown being frustration with a ketchup bottle.

Related to this is a similar question; does the reference to the placement itself have to be positive? An episode of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip recently spend 45 minutes complaining heavy-handedly about product placement in TV shows, in a TV show that is, itself, about a TV show. To go back to a previous post’s theme of flagging products to the viewer, this was an incredibly effective technique. Many brands could be mentioned many times – more times, possibly, than they could be in TV shows not written by Aaron Sorkin (“Are you saying our cast members should all listen to iPods on set?” “Are you saying you don’t like iPods? I like iPods” “I like iPods”, ad infinitum).

How much does any of this matter – is salience, or positive endorsement for the product, more important for those who would have their product featured within TV shows or movies? If the former, is it likely, or possible, that drug companies will pay to have characters form crippling addictions to their products rather than those of their competitors?

Categories: branding · marketing
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