Product Placement: PR 101

If you’re a Coronation Street fan, you’ve probably noticed some changes in Weatherfield over the past few weeks, namely the arrival of two major high street stores. On April 28, a Co-op supermarket and Costa Coffee opened for business on the famous cobbled streets. As well as fully-branded storefronts, other branded assets also started appearing in the show, such as posters, Co-op carrier bags and Costa coffee cups.

The changes are a result of ITV’s biggest ever product placement deal.

What exactly is product placement? 

Product placement is the inclusion of branded products in movies, television shows or video games. It’s a type of pull marketing, designed to increase consumer awareness of a brand, and boost demand for a product or service. Some product placement is paid, and some is unpaid. In the case of ITV, Costa and Co-op paid big bucks to feature on the show. Considering Corrie has just started broadcasting six nights a week, it’s a brand awareness goldmine.

Why has ITV brought brands to the cobbles?

A high street brand has never graced the Weatherfield cobbles in the show’s 60-year history, until now. And the reason ITV has done so is because the station has seen a steep drop in revenue from conventional advertising in the last couple of years. This is due to technology such as digital recording and on-demand TV, that enables viewers to skip traditional commercial breaks. ITV and other savvy broadcasters are increasingly turning to in-programme advertising to make up for lost revenue.

What can product placement do for your brand?

Product placement is a great way to get your brand seen by millions, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. It’s also a great thing to boast about when contacting journalists for PR, especially if the deal you’ve made is with a prime-time TV show as it gives your brand instant credibility.

If you’re interested in exploring product placement for your brand, there are three main ways to get your product on the big screen:

Visual placement

Visual placement is when a product or logo features in the foreground or background of a shot. It’s not mentioned by name, but the product gets precious screen time.

A good example comes from 2000 American survival drama film, Castaway. In the film, Tom Hanks’ character works for the shipping company Federal Express (FedEx). He gets marooned on a desert island after a FedEx delivery plane he’s on, crashes. He then uses FedEx packages from the crash to help him survive on the island. When Hanks’ character returns to the ‘real’ world, he’s taken to FedEx headquarters.

This piece of product placement did its job, namely to get the FedEx brand publicity, and piggyback on the PR generated by the film.

Spoken Placement

If you’re a Back to the Future fan, you may recall Marty McFly ordering a Pepsi at a bar in the second instalment. This was a text-book example of spoken product placement.

Spoken product placement is also rife in the music industry. American singer The Weeknd released a chart-topping song in 2016 called ‘Starboy’, which is about his love for luxury cars. He plugs three cars in the song: the Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, the Bentley Mulsanne, and McLaren’s P1 hybrid sports car. The cars also feature in the music video. This is a PR dream for the carmakers, who didn’t have to pay a penny for the exposure.

Plot Placement

Plot placement makes a product a part of the film. Take James Bond for example. Audiences associate the suave spy with the latest gadgets, the nicest cars, and the most impeccable style. Several high-end brands help to achieve this, from champagne brand Bollinger, which Bond has sipped in all but one Bond film, to the elegant car brand, Aston Martin. Bond drove Aston Martins in 11 Bond films.

Bond made Aston Martin desirable, and Aston Martin made Bond look classy and rich.

Product Placement in Social Media

There are various ways you can get your product featured on TV or film, but there’s another channel to consider. Brands are increasingly using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for product placement opportunities. YouTubers with millions of followers will wear branded clothing or use branded items to spread the word about that product to their fanbase. There’s some crossover with influencer marketing here. Read: How to use influencers to supercharge your PR campaign.

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