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Effect of Product Placement in Films

CHAPTER II: Literature Review

Product placement

Product placement in movies is no new phenomenon as Lehu (2007), describes product placement as ‘the location or more accurately the integration of a product or a brand into a film or televised series.’ This form of advertising has been around for sometime although its not traditional advertising it speaks to an audience in a different form of communication which is either in your face or subliminal messages. Product placement comes in a number of different forms including visual, audio and a combination of the two combined. Visual product placement Is a visual representation of a brand in a movie, This includes strategically positioning a brand in the background or being used by the actor of a scene, displaying a billboard or some other form of visual advertisement in a scene, and any other visual representation of a brand-name product ‘without any relevant message or sounds on the audio track which draw attention to the product’ (Gupta & Lord, 1998). An example of this is Daniel Craig using a Sony Vaio in the movie Casino Royal (2006). See Appendix A.

Audio representation of a brand can be the mention of the product in script but not necessarily shown on screen for example the movie Wall Street (1987) where Martin Sheen’s character says to a server, ‘Get this kid a Molson Light’ (Gupta & Lord, 1998). In combining these two formats Gupta and Lord (1998) defines audio-visual placement as the visual appearance of a brand with a verbal mention of the brand name or a ‘brand- relevant message’ for example ‘The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is seen and talked about in the movie Oceans eleven’ (2001) (Lehu 2007).

Product placement, as a marketing tool, has many advantages due to its captive audience, the social nature that it is being viewed in and the lack of clutter, such as other advertisements (Dunnett & Hoek, 1996). This form of communication is described as being an effective technique as Jhonson (2009) explains ‘For subliminal suggestion to be effective an individual must be relaxed and open to suggestion. The subconscious mind is more open to suggestion when a person is relaxed.’ This practice has not gone without controversy, however, as its use is often debated by moviegoers and media experts. While some moviegoers feel that the use of product placement enhances a film by adding to its realism (Govani 1999). Others see the practice as an invasive one that sews itself a new seam in the blanket of brands that covers a strong consumer-based society (Phillips & Purdie 1993). Some supporters of the practice argue that product placement allows them to relate to the characters (DeLorme, Reid, & Zimmer, 1999)

Product placement strategy

Strategy Dates back a few decades, in an example where Joan Crawford is drinking Jack Daniels whisky in the 1945 production Mildred pierce (Wasko 1995). Back in these earlier times product placement was a casual affair, property masters would contact a local Jack Daniels distributer asking for the product to be used in the film. Today the product placement is more deliberate and sophisticated, Divisions dedicated to paying to have their goods inserted strategically into movies are of the norm for large corporations this is to gain access to what is seen as a glamorous medium with a relatively captive audience. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are amongst a number of companies who have formed in house divisions dedicated directly to product placement or Hollywood advertising (Wasko 1995).

The belief of companies associated with product placement is that if a movie grosses $50 million, the advertiser has reached an audience of 13.7 million in theatre viewers, assuming this the movie will likely sell in DVD’S’/Videos adding additional impressions per placement along with celebrity credibility bought by the use of the product. (Wasko 1995). Kardes (2008) adds to the argument by stating that ‘When a brand is shown in a movie it is definitely seen but a broadcast commercial can be skipped via the fast forward button on a DVR.’ However narrative coherence can be disrupted by strategies used to market products. Music videos related to films is used as an example The promotion of some features is helped by the use of videos featuring music from the film, examples include Flashdance (1983) , Footloose (1984), Purple Rain (1984), staying alive (1983) and The Bodyguard (1992) (King 2002). In these films the excess created by the conjunction of music and image creates a module separate from the narrative, working against the sequential structuring of the film.

Product placement within the Hollywood film industry

Product placement increased dramatically since the appearance of Reese’s Pieces in the 1982 Movie E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial caused the sales of the product to increase by 68%. (Balasubramanian et al 2006). Today product placement in movies is highly noticeable. In the film Minority Report (2002) at least 15 brands where placed, including Nokia, Pepsi and Lexus. In Die Another Day (2002) there were cameos from Jaguar, Aston Martin and Thunderbird, which are all owned by the Ford motor group (Jobber 2004). However alongside soft drinks one of the most common products placed in movies are cars. BMW invested £20 million on the placement of its Z3 roadster within the movie Goldeneye (1995) and the use of other advertising media to support the placement and create awareness (Fill 2005)

Gupta and lord (1998) focus on studies concerning recall of brands placed within movies that have been undertaken; they found that prominent placements achieved higher levels of recall. Morton and Friedman (2002) mention that any contact with a brand in a film will help influence purchasing decisions. It is argued by Joachimsthaler and Aker (1997) that visibility of brands are underestimated as it signals leadership, quality and success, people like to know brands even if they have never used them. This appears to indicate that the primary benefit of placement in movies is the increase of brand recognition.

Consumer behaviour

‘Consumer behaviour is the study of individuals, groups or organisations and the process they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society.’ (Sharma, A. 2006). The study of consumer behaviour helps organisations improve their marketing strategies by understanding the psychology behind consumer thoughts, feelings and by understanding his or her environment all which have an effect on the action towards a brand or product. Tyagi and Kumar (2004) state that there is a relationship between consumer behaviour and his attitudes, communication with him and how to motivate him. Family, social and cultural dimensions of consumer behaviour have a role to play.

‘Product placement isn’t about sales it’s about brand awareness claims expert Samuel Turcotte.’ (Galician 2004). Whilst awareness may be generated attitudes and perception also start to form towards the brand. Attitude formation can be on the bases of cognitive responses to stimuli or information of other sources; cognitive thoughts are responses we have to a communication. Positive thoughts will generally have a positive affect on attitudes whereas negative thoughts will have negative attitude formation (Hoyer & Macinnis, 2008).

Age has another implication on attitudes and perceptions of product placement. In their 1999 study, DeLorme, Reid, and Zimmer interviewed younger audiences (aged 18-21) and older audiences (aged 35-48) in a bid to compare different views on product placement. A number of focus groups resulted in the finding of distinct and diverse perspectives among many of the study samples. According to their research, (DeLorme, Reid, and Zimmer 1999) found that older audiences generally perceive product placements as implications of a changing society and the current use of product placement was an indication of a major cultural shift, according to the study older moviegoers ‘associated brand props with feelings of insecurity, frustration, and fear of change’ (DeLorme, Reid, & Zimmer, 1999, p.24) various examples of such feelings were provided. On the other hand younger moviegoers perceive product placement as ‘Associated with an invitation to cultural belonging and feelings of emotional security.’ (DeLorme, Reid, & Zimmer, 1999, p. 28) The younger generation grew up in a consumer-based society that is bombarded with advertisements and other promotional items, the younger generation does not generally place a heavy emphasis on product placements. However viewers are generally positive about the placement of product in movies.

Günnemann (2008) explains that ‘product placement for the automobile industry can positively affect consumer’s perception of certain automobile brands image as a purchasing factor.’ He also looked at preference of product placement over advertising for automobiles, which showed European consumers have greater preference of product placement than their American and Asian counterparts where as American consumers on the other hand are the strongest proponents of product placement being more authentic than advertising, whilst Asian consumers have the lowest value in both categories.

A study by Nebenzahl, Secunda (1993) on the attitude of film audiences showed that the majority of those interviewed preferred product placement over other forms of promotions because it was unobtrusively integrated into the film. The small minority who object are on ethical grounds. ‘They perceive product placement as a clandestine approach which deludes the consumer and they believe this practice should be forbidden.’ (Pattyn, 2000).

Brand Association: Contexts and Celebrities

Williams (2004) shows that placements are contextually integrated and therefore are non-invasive, placement are therefore seen as an experience rather than an advertisement. Contextual integration can be achieved by product placement through character development and plot advancement in films, and product placement can also offer the chance of celebrity endorsement. Nelson and McLeod (2005) show that the credibility of an advertisement depends on the sources credibility; differing views on differing sources can alter the way in which a brand is perceived. The use of celebrities has the ability to influence the source credibility of a brand (Sawyer 2006). This can be achieved by tapping into the celebrity’s ‘equity’ (Zyman 2002). Such use of celebrities or actors enables their personality to ‘rub off’ on the product. (Rust and Varki 1996). This will have the effect of enhancing the brand personality. The use of a highly credible and recognised person can therefore influence levels of expertise and trust worthiness. Ohanian (1991) found that the perceived expertise of celebrity’s actually increased purchase intentions, even though the celebrity may have no actual knowledge of the product. It appears here that the product placement allows the attractiveness of a brand to be increased through association with a particular individual, even if that individual would have little actual knowledge or expertise in relation to the product or brand.

Ethicality behind product placement

Gupta and Gould (1997) define ethically-charged products (or ’emotionally charged products’) as ‘products which especially arouse ethical concern and differences

across consumers regarding their marketing and consumption’ the practice of product placement is sometimes referred to as unethical since audiences are rarely informed that they are watching paid advertising when they presume they are watching creative programming ‘playing on peoples susceptibility’ (Plaisance 2009).

The common ethical concern in many articles is the notion that product placement constitutes a form of subliminal advertising, since products are integrated into films, but no disclaimer is present that warns the viewer of any form of advertising in the film (Gupta & Gould, 1997; Snyder, 1992; Nebenzahl & Secunda,1993). The practice of product placement could be described as misleading as advertiser’s interest and intention to influence the viewer may be concealed behind something else, in the case of movies, the context of the story.

Among the most controversial subjects, however, is the use of ethically-charged products in film. The most common discussed are the use of cigarettes, alcohol, and guns, this due to the potentially harmful implications their exposure can have on someone. A 1997 study shows some individuals’ impressions of such placements in films. The study measures undergraduate college students’ views regarding the acceptability of placing cigarettes, alcohol, and guns in movies. Results indicate that the acceptability of cigarettes, alcohol, and guns are 41.3%, 60.3%, and 38.7%, respectively (Gupta & Gould, 1997).

There is much concern over cigarette brands’ being placed in movies, a common argument cites a mandate made and enforced by the United States Surgeon General. It requires that all cigarette ads feature a health warning, making known the products’ potential hazards to the viewer. Surgeon General health warnings, however, are not found on films that feature these placements (Basil, 1997). Another common concern is that the use of these products will encourage the movie’s viewers to adopt smoking as a habit. (Basil 1997) and Everett, Schnuth, and Tribble (1998) cite Social Cognitive Theory in their respective articles. This states that through observation we learn a lot. Since moviegoers are actors smoking cigarettes (and in some cases adopting specific brands), and since this is usually portrayed in movies as glamorous the moviegoers may possibly be drawn to the habit (Basil,1997; Everett, Schnuth, & Tribble, 1998).

Research objectives

Investigate attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of viewers towards products and brands after exposure to product placement in movies.

Analyse viewers opinions on the ethical issues of product placement in movies.

Examine the role of products in movies as a strategic marketing tool.

CHAPTER III: Methodology

This chapter refines and justifies the methodology deployed in this study. The process for gathering data focused more on that of a qualitative strategy however a quantitative means was also implemented, with the focus on consumer research and understanding consumer thoughts and feelings.

The research identified issues such as why consumers have the attitude or perception towards a product or brand which they have experienced through viewing product placement in movies, underlining issues such as acknowledgement, deciphering the message, and even perceptions and attitudes that are based on emotional and cultural feelings ‘sometimes we have a favourable attitude toward an offering simply because it feels good or seems right’ (Hoyer & Macinnis 2008).

The quantitative approach was in the form of a questionnaire distributed to 18-25 year olds, the questionnaires allowed data from the focus groups to be tested and extended by from input from a wider range of participents, results are discussed in chapter 4.

Qualitative approach – Focus groups

Focus groups are a form of group interviewing that allows data to be generated through the benefit of communication between research participants (Pope & Mays). The qualitative approach was incorporated because of its ability to capitalise on group interaction that provided distinctive types of data. This study is based on consumer attitude and perceptions towards products placement and arising ethical issues, therefore it is only suited that this approach was used as it allows for deeper discussion to take place with point of views coming across from different backgrounds and cultural values and group norms are emphasised. using a qualitative focus groups would produce a greater depth of information rather than just relying on the questionaire with pre-determined responses The two focus groups were used to achieve the following:

Investigate attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of viewers towards products and brands after exposure to product placement in movies.

Analyse viewers opinions on the ethical issues of product placement in movies.


Two focus groups were conducted in an attempt to gather data on consumer attitudes and perceptions and the other on a discussion around ethics. Both focus groups followed the same procedure however groups were split into two, Group A and Group B. This was done to ensure that every subject got the chance to participate and wasn’t overshadowed by the over enthusiastic; small groups offer more of an opportunity for people to talk and are more practical to set up and manage (Litosseliti 2003). 6 individuals were selected for each group, Participants from Both Group A and B were selected on the bases of being from different cultural backgrounds and being socially connected. This is because it is important to understand that cultural backgrounds can have an effect on opinions, and it maximises the possibility of exploring the subject from different perspectives (Kitzinger 1995 cited in Litosseliti 2003 P4). It was important for participants to be socially connected to ensure good group dynamics, this helped the participants be more comfortable and open towards discussion. The selection criteria was18-25 male and females, Gupta and Gould (1997) noted that many products ‘possess gender identifications’ (p.39). The researchers hypothesized that males generate more favourable responses to products that are depicted as possessing masculine qualities. Therefore the ratio of male to female will be 50:50. This will allow data to be gathered and discussed from both point of views.

The advantages of focus groups as shown by Patton (1990) are the checking that takes place within the group that eliminates false views and it is easy to establish consistent views. Group A focused on discussion and questions targeted towards viewers attitudes and perceptions whilst Group B was a discussion on ethical issues. Both groups were shown two movies in one sitting this was time efficient as opposed to showing both movies twice. The movies shown were Iron Man 2 (2010) and Transformers (2007), the movies were chosen for the large amount of products placed with over 45 placements in each movie. The movies were shown in whole as opposed to clips containing products placed, this was to show the product placements in the context of the movie rather than showing clips where the products were dominant. Showing clips of the movie where products were dominant would have emphasised on the product this could have misrepresent the findings as the goal was to evaluate them within the whole movie experience. At the end of both movies the discussion commenced on consumer attitudes and perceptions with Group A, followed by the discussion with Group B on ethical issues. Participents were encouraged to use product placement in other movies as well as the two shown as examples for discussion if they could recall them and the discussion was not based entirely on the movies shown. This allowed participents to discuss product placement that may have been potryaed in a different fashion for example: the use of different actors, characters or setting. It was taken into consideration that the time difference between conducted Group A and B could have an impact on the level of debate given that Group B had to wait, however all participants were University students on the same campus and the study was conducted on University grounds giving the other group time to go elsewhere and continue with other activities whilst they waited.

There were a set number of questions used for each focus group and Each individual was required to participate and provide some input to increase the depth of discussion. A simple format of question then discussion was used, questions that arose from discussion would keep the conversation flowing. Conversation flowed freely in order to discover what the subjects found to be interesting and to explore wider attitudes but conversation was re-directed by the moderator when it was felt to be unproductive or pointless (Bryman 2004). It was made clear to participants prior to the discussion that there was no right or wrong answer in an effort to remove social desirability, what the respondent thinks they should say rather than feel (Black 1999). Both discussions were recorded using a CD recorder and were later analysed with key points noted for each discussion. A full play by play transcription was not practical due to the large amount of dialogue and it is felt that a full transcript would have broken up narrative flow, however a shorter version of the transcript highlighting key points and questions asked is available in the appendix (())))) by noting key points only it is felt that analysing content is much easier, Bryman (2001) claims that transcribing and coding leads to a loss of context.

Quantitative research – Questionnaires

Questionnaires allow the participant to respond to a set number of questions, questions can be open ended or closed ended, and for the purpose of this particular research aspect closed ended questions were used. A closed ended question is amicable when the dimensions of a variable have been diagnosed. Closed ended questions expose participants to the same response categories and allow standardized quantitative statistical analysis (Johnson & Christensen 2010). The purpose of the questionnaire was to expand further on the data that was concluded from the focus groups (this will be discussed further in chapter 4). The questionaires focused on getting participant responses for the purpose of ‘conformatory research’ (Johnson & Christensen 2010) in which specific data from the focus groups was tested. This gave the results more creadability and the questionnaire would allow the study to benefit from areas of investigation that the focus groups may have failed to answer or provide enough information on.

100 questionnaires were distributed around university campuses as this was the most convienent location to find participents that meet the 18-25 demographic, however it was guaranteed that that all participents would be of the age 15 questions were composed and pre, the questionnaire can be viewed in the appendix (p))))

One to one interviews

Interviews will aim to meet objective The research method that will be used here is one to one interviews with either product placement agencies or companies such as Sony. These interviews will be telephone based as availability to meet face to face with businesses is a little tricky given the time frame. Given the tendency for businesses to turn down students the agency or business that is to be selected will depend on the rate at which each representative replies. The Interviews will allow these companies to convey product placement from a strategic point of view and explain the practice from their own situation, perspective and in their own words. The interviews are based on not only conversation of product placement but with an aim to generate responses from the interviewee on intended consumer behaviour.

The procedure will be to follow a script for the interview investigation which can be outlined by characterising a methodological awareness of questions, a focus on the dynamics of interaction between interviewer and interviewee, and also critical attention to what is said.

CHAPTER IV: Results, analysis and discussion


This chapter will focus on presenting and discussing the findings from the research conducted. Due to the large amount of field work that was employed for the purpose of the study, results from both the focus groups and the questionnaires will be compared and contrasted leading to the denouement of the findings. Analysis will be based on the most pertinent data that was found. qualitative researchers needs to communicate the findings in an honest and systematic manner, disseminating the richness of the findings and hence the experience of the researchers. (Easterby-Smith et al. 2002).

Discussion has been categorised in three sections, each section will address the research objectives of this study and how the findings have helped in achieving those objectives. Attitudes and perceptions towards product placement will be analysed and discussed first highlighting the points that were extracted from both quantitative and qualitative research, followed by the discussion on ethical issues towards product placement practice. Finally the interview with the industry specialist will be discussed, analysing the role of product placement in moves as a strategic marketing tool. The data that formed this discussion can be viewed in the appendix ( )

Consumer attitudes and perceptions

The first area of study was the attitudes and perceptions of viewers between the ages of 18-25 towards product placement in Hollywood movies and the products or brands that are being placed.

Brand recall

The first focus group identified that it was hard to recall a lot of the products that were placed within the movies. It was felt that this is because of the large amount of placements in the movies to begin with. participants claimed that they could only recall the placements that were dominant and showed a stronger on screen presence than other brands or products. Amongst the placements that were most effective were car brands, it was made clear that cars were amongst the top to be noticed because its repetition in the movies made it a strong focus of the overall viewing experience. The most noticeable examples were Audi in Iron Man 2 and Cadillac in Transformers. brands in other movies were also identified as being memorable such as Toyota In fast and furious and Aston Martin in Die Another Day. Brands that somehow were incorporated into the story of the movie had greater recognition; this is because they stood out more. As mentioned in chapter 2, prominent placements achieve higher levels of recall in movies (Gupta and lord 1998).

Other placements that were regarded as being effective in terms of prominence were those that had audio presence as well as physical, Oracle and Vanity Affair from Iron Man 2 where amongst the ones that were recalled. Participants revealed that the audio presence and physical presence (placement being used) generated more attention as opposed to having a brand name in the foreground. A combined 66%percent of the respondents to the questionnaire that was carried out following the focus group agreed that products stand out more when a character uses or mentions the product/brand (see table.1).

Whilst the recall of a brand is an important factor in how effective the placement is, the pace or complexity of the movie can cause a distraction from the placements. The focus group suggested that some of the placements were lost due to the pace of the movies shown. One participant commented that placements in the background of slower paced movies were more effective than those placed in action movies or those with a faster pace. It was later commented that products placed within faster paced movies needed to be emphasised on more to be noticed. It therefore appears that the genre of the movie will have an effect on the product placement with in it. The research suggests that viewers will have difficulty to recall brands/products that are placed in the background or foreground of a fast past movie. However if a product is used or mentioned by a character then this increases the chances of the viewer recall. On the other hand placements within slower paced movies are easier to recall increasing brand awareness. This indicates that positioning of the product is a valuable consideration when the goal is to increase awareness

Attitude product placement

The overall suggestion from this study in regards to attitudes towards product placement within the movie is that the group members strongly appreciated the presence of products within movies. The research suggests that viewers acceptability of product placement within movies is on the basis that it enhances the realism of the movie by combining products that are seen on a daily bases. One example of this found in the Movie Iron Man 2 with the insertion of CNN and Larry King, the focus group agreed that these placements gave them the feeling that the event of the movie was taking place in our world as appose to a fantasy setting. They felt that these types of placements amplified the movies realism. The group compared the differences between having placements in movie to not having any. The findings suggested that having no product placement or having fictitious products in a movie reflected on the setting of the movie, it would create a fantasy world for viewers which was fine if it was a movie in the category of Lord of the Rings or Avatar. Williams (2004) suggested that product placements are contextually integrated into movies. Therefore It is important to note that placements are deemed to be acceptable by viewers because of the reflection these products have on real life. In the survey questionnaire that was carried out, a combined 63 out of 100 respondents agreed and strongly agreed that placements add to the realism of the movie (see table.2).

TABLE 2: Viewers opinion on products adding realism to movies

This confirms the findings from the focus group; however there are a large number of respondents that validate that they disagree with the statement. It is mentioned in the literature that some see product placement practice as an invasive one that sews itself a new seam in the blanket of brands that covers a strong consumer-based society (Phillips & Purdie 1993). This is one suggestion as to why respondents to the survey questions may have disagreed. It could be argued that some viewers find placements invasive. however the findings from the focus group indicates that whilst placements add realism, the ones that appear without contributing to the story line or are emphasised in a way that seems to be out of context in regards to the movie can be described as annoying or blatant advertising. The views of the group were not that this was invasive but more or on the line of ‘annoying’. Examples that were noticeable were the Panasonic placement in Transformers. In a scene that was devoted to show a Branded memory chip, the character tilts the product towards the camera revealing the brand name. It was suggested that this had no association to the story line nor was it placed to emphasis realism; one participant described it as being ‘an obvious plug’. The common theme was the emphasis on the annoyance of pushy advertising, this research commends Balsubramanian et al (2006) who suggested that blatant placements have the ability to irritate. Therefore if product placement is to appear, the product needs to contribute to the content of the movie in order to generate positive attitudes and acceptability from the viewers. But it is important to distinguish between attitudes towards product placement practice (discussed here) and attitudes towards the brands being placed. This leads us to the next area of this study.

Attitudes and perception towards brands

In the previous paragraph we discussed the attitudes towards product placement; we will now discuss viewer attitudes and perceptions towards the product/brands that are placed.

A common theme that was identified from the focus group discussion was that viewers did not generate a positive or negative attitude towards a product or brand because of the way it was placed in the movie. The findings from this study suggest that whilst awareness was created there was little change in attitudes towards the brands that were placed. one viewer generated a positive attitude towards the use of the Everlast in Iron Man 2 in a scene where Robert Downey Jr is boxing whilst exhibiting the branded clothing. The viewer associated with the bra

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