Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crouching audiences, hidden products - Part II

My article as appeared in the Advertising express magazine of February 2010......

Why YES and why NO to product placements?

Belch and Belch identifies the following advantages and disadvantages of product placements in TV and Cinema 4 which in Indian circumstances will be applicable as under.

Why yes?

1). The number of TV and Cinema viewing populace is ever on the increase (in1999 the Indian spend on movies and theatre was just 1 % whereas by 2003 it rose to 4.6% of the total spend) and this results in more exposure for the products thus placed. Combined with this, the ratings of individual programmes if high also makes sure that, the so placed product falls in more eyeballs. If the programme is a popular serial, more people see it again and again and thus the opportunity to see (frequency) also goes up.

2). Products that become part of the silver screen or the TV screen acts as a supportive media in promotion. If the in programme product placement is followed by an Ad of the same product in the next commercial break, the possibilities of a brand recall is quite a high than in a simple ‘commercial break advertising’.

3). Source association is one prominent advantage of product placements. The star or the programme and its appeal will automatically transfer to the product placed with the star in the programme. The tales of Tom cruise wearing the Rayban Aviator and the Oakleys in Top gun and MI –2, and the effect it created in the sales of the brand are oft discussed and celebrated.

4). Recall and acceptance among the target audience have been proven to be high in case of product placements. Media planners note that brand recall in case of a normal advertising scene is 18 per cent, but it is three times more – 53 per cent – through product placements in films. Studies indicate that the acceptance of such product placements on western audiences of Cinema is high when the placement is prominent and not hidden (Gupta & Gould 1997).

5) Product placements (if done with common sense) can achieve the best of passive learning and that is proven to be the best to sink in with a brand name into the Target Audience’s mind. People go to cinema to see cinema and watch TV to see the programmes in it and not the commercial breaks. They may tolerate the commercial breaks but not the Commercials that are squeezed into the programme in whatever garb and pretence. In films since there are no commercial breaks the problem is even acute. Slight attention like the way SBI atm’s and its availability in every corner , in the film “Jab we met” and Fevicryl being used by every one in the film “Tare Zameen Par” are beautiful examples.

Why no?

Prohibitively high costs that the production houses charges, without much justification whatsoever is one basic disadvantage in this field. Of course the one main selling point is the CPM rates due to the high exposures, but many times the high cost isn’t valid simply because there is no proof of cost effectiveness. This however doesn’t mean that people are reluctant to be part of such marketing activity but on the contrary are too very happy to be part of it.

The time of exposure is another disadvantage, in product placements. Long drawn scenes, just to make sure that the product on scene is shown long enough, will be precarious. Even otherwise, long exposure is not a guarantee for strong recall. Some times prominence plays a key role and the time of exposure doesn’t matter at all. Media planners are yet to derive a solution for this perplexity.

The advertiser should have a control over when and where his message is placed in a media vehicle. Unfortunately in product placements, it is not possible and lack of control is evident. The producer of the programme, because he has accepted money, from the product owner, will place it ‘somewhere’ but that may not be effective. For instance, no soft drink major would like their products (after having spend a lot of money) placed in the villains den, where the ‘bad guys’ are planning next round of activities, accompanied with liquor or some times even inspired from liquor.

Competition and clutter had made this advertiser breach into the editorial space necessary, but now the ghost follows it there as well. The combine of voracious Programme Producers, insatiable Product placement agencies and naive Marketers has made it all clumsy and clutter is visible here as well. A serial where the hero uses particular denim and a specific brand of hair gel and sufficient care taken to ensure repetition of the brand name, and even a discussion of the virtues of the said brands will cause a chain reaction. Audience apathy will not be that far as the producer and director thinks.

5). Lack of professionalism in the circle is very clear the way things are being taken for a ride now. The more the product is placed, the more prominence for the brand(s) is thrusted upon the programme; the better is the assumption which may turn to be disastrous.

6) Lack of measurement indices is one thing that should make the marketer think twice as to how effective all that throwing in of money will help the marketer to achieve his ROI and that too in testing times like this. Measuring product placements in TV is almost next to impossible. In cinema the results can be judged more, as reported by the western media that when Tom Cruise wore a Ray ban aviator the sales went up by 40 % and with his Oakleys in MI 2 the sales shot up by 80% (Time, January 1998). This is because, cinema gets audiences who are there having made a voluntary choice of exposure, and having spent money for entertainment, unlike television audiences whose involvement and degree of attention is questionable. Moreover, research suggests that people in a cinema hall, no matter what their age and movie going frequency is, actively participated in viewing experience and actively interpreted brands that they encounter there (Delorme et al 1999). But a time tested, believable mechanism to measure the effects in quantitative terms is yet to evolve....

To be continued.... >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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