Product Placement: The Future of Advertising?

I couldn’t disagree more with Jack Feuer’s column “Unwelcome Guest” [A&C, Oct. 22].

He’s right about two things: the invalidity of any “count” of daily ad exposures and the existence of plenty of examples of clunky and heavy-handed product placements.

But tell that to the people who got Reese’s Pieces into E.T. or the technology marketers falling all over themselves with every new James Bond release to equip “Q” and 007 with their latest/greatest toys and fancy cars.

Yes, some ads are poorly done. Some TV commercials are poorly done. Some product placements are poorly done. None of which on its own is sufficient evidence to conclude that any of these directions is therefore ineffective.

I’ve had my own share of one-man boycotts (à la Subway/Ace Ventura), but implicit in that action is that we notice, digest and remember those messages whether we like it or not—we’re hyperaware of them.

It’s clearly a growing trend.

Why? Because it works. Because we live in a mimic culture. Because millions of people around the world deify celebrities to the point they wear the clothes, eat the food, and drive the cars the stars do. (Or at least as perceived through entertainment content.) Yes, that’s a sad commentary on our society, but there’s no denying it. It’s the same principle that makes celebrity endorsements so popular; people want to be like Mike. And Regis. And Jennifer Aniston.

Smart media companies and advertisers see the future of TV in a digital world, where commercials are easily zapped if they’re recorded at all—witness ReplayTV, TiVo’s chief competitor, announcing a new line of products where commercials don’t have to be skipped because they’re automatically deleted from the broadcast in the first place. A digital world where syndication is challenged by subscription VOD (order 25 commercial-free episodes of South Park for $10, to download and view at your leisure). They recognize the need to weave their messages into the very fabric of the content itself, where they can’t be skipped, edited out or replaced by someone else’s messages in reruns. Clearly, some are better tailors than others. If you think it’s bad now, brace yourself, because you’re only seeing the tip of this iceberg.

Evan Saks
Partner, account director
Communicado Advertising and Integrated Branding