Friday, February 19, 2010

Crouching audiences, hidden products - Part III

My article as appeared in the Advertising express magazine of February 2010...... continued from part II

The Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle

The above discussion sufficiently makes it clear that when over used, Product placements in TV and Cinema can backfire and be counter productive. In this angle the concept of Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle needs to be visited.

The Audience Intolerance Threshold Quadrangle is an after effect of four elements....


Too much of importance to one or two products in a programme


Clumsy lining up of many products, with no editorial justification


Long-winded sales talk done by hero & heroine of TV programme, as if it is part of the story..


The unholy relation between the media, advertiser, his agencies and the producer of the programme ignoring the TG

These four elements of the Audience intolerance threshold quadrangle need to be analyzed in the changed conditions and the better audiences that watch TV and cinema as compared to the past. Marketers need to understand the reason why not all communication (ads and product placements including) do not work with the market place.

Marketers have to get more realistic about the common sense of the average TV viewer /movie-goer and analyze the four factors before finalizing on a product placement deal next. The audience who grabs the remote on a commercial break cannot be made intolerant by showing long advertisements that pretend to be part of the show/movie which in any case will compromise the artistic quality of the show/movie.

Marketers have to bear the Separation principle, where it is a must to maintain appropriate separation between the programme and the advertising content. How appropriate is appropriate, is a question that marketers have to ask themselves before adventuring with a parade of products and brands, to glare from the story with prominence, to bore the people with patter and to reveal the unholy partnership to the angry target audience. People in countries like ours will not understand that this is a method of revenue generation for the producer of the film and hence tolerate it.

Greedy marketers will have to take care of the prominence part, the brand staying on in the show/movie and irritating the viewer. It is better to pass off and be remembered than remain there and not to be seen at all. Greedy channels will have to avoid parading, (the naked display of brands in an easy route to make money) to avoid people switching off the show and going to other channels. Greedy script writers will have to rethink, next time they pen dialogues that starts and ends with brand names, an easy recipe to disaster. And the greedy who is who in the marketing world- the advertiser, the ad agency, the product placement agency, the TV channel/cinema producer-director-script writer, the sponsors- each one will have to think how fair it is to over do this?

How long will this last?

How much over cooking can you do?

When TV programmes go abroad this ends up in even bigger troubles. For instance the UK media regulation authority Ofcom came heavily on Sony TV and its Indian Idol programme for blatant use of “LG KP199 mobile phone” and its virtues which violated the rules there.(This was when the programme was shown in UK for the people of Indian origin who lives there)

Guidelines for making it better

1. Distinguish between serious involvement and low involvement, whether in TV or in cinema and treat them suitably. Avoid serious programmes.

2. Product integration should be the aim, not some how product insertion which will look artificial.

3. Do not treat product placements as an opportunity to advertise alcohol and cigarettes in surrogate.

4. Use it only when editorially justifiable and to enhance practicality.

5. Try being in the back ground-Remember, passive placements with a trigger, scores more than others.

6. Bring in regulation- self is better, and ASCI can also form guidelines, at the earliest.

7. Measuring the effectiveness of product placements should be more seriously dealt with and care should be taken to make it believable.

8. Be innovative- Like Maruthi Swift which introduced the car for the first time in the film “Bunty aur Bubbly”

9. Be target specific… If you are selling women’s wear ,insert your brand and its message in a “Balika badhu” and not in “the buck stops here”.

10. Look for noticeability . It doesn’t help you being in the parade.


Product placements are a wonderful opportunity to reach the target audience, who are captive, without transferring to them a feeling of ‘being sold’. Since it is a best tool for passive learning, it can work wonders as seen in this article. It requires co ordination of all the parties involved, proper planning, and a realistic and long term approach to reap the benefits without throwing the audience into intolerance. The rule is simple- reaching more eyeballs and /or staying more time in those eyeballs need not mean more sales.

It is the proverbial golden goose, this whole business of product placements in the content, but greed should not kill it like the one in fables.

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