Advertising is all around us.
Depending on whom you ask, the average American is exposed to thousands of commercial messages every day.
TV advertising is of course one of the best-known and older form of advertising, and we’ve all seen more TV ads than we can remember. Modern technology however, in the form of digital video recorders, help us to skip through TV ads. This is one of the reasons advertisers rely much more on embedded marketing, or product placement.
Product placements is the strategy of embedding products within a TV program or film as a way to promote those products.
Product placements can be very powerful, as shown by the 65% increase in Reese’s Pieces sales after its placement in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, or the 55% increase in Red Stripe sales after its placement in The Firm. These data shows that product placement can have rather powerful effects on viewers, despite its seeming innocuousness.
In fact, product placements can be more powerful than we actually realize, making us implicitly prefer products even if we don’t explicitly prefer them. So for this reason, in this post I’m going to discuss how product placement influences our implicit cognitions. In order to give you a better appreciation of how it affects us in ways we don’t consciously realize. After reading this, hopefully you’ll start to view product placements differently, though to be quite honest it actually might not benefit you.
Implicit attitudes are attitudes that unknowingly become associated with other attitude objects. Product placement can directly influence our own implicit attitudes, such that our attitude toward a TV program becomes unknowingly associated with products placed in that TV program or film. More specifically, the emotions we experience while watching the program are transferred to products placed in that program, though we’d be unaware of the transfer.
If perceive those emotions in positive way, we’ll implicitly prefer the products more, but if they’re perceived in negative way, we’ll implicitly prefer them less. When placements are less prominent, appearing only in the background of a scene, they may not even affect explicit attitudes (explicit attitudes are the attitudes we report on questionnaires). The reason for this is background placements in TV programs of film are less likely to elicit conscious thoughts about the product, conscious thought having the effect of directly influencing explicit attitudes.
In addition to implicit attitudes, product placement can affect what’s called implicit self-identification. Implicit self-identification is automatically associating yourself with an object, for example a specific consumer brand. When we watch some role model is using the brand, we can start to automatically identify with the brand as a way to vicariously experience that character’s life. This has happened in experiments even when people were prompted to perceive placements as advertisements and reacted by explicitly liking the placed brand less! That finding is important, for several reasons. First, psychologists have actually found we’re more likely to buy something we identify with, rather than something we like. Second, it shows that even when we view product placements skeptically they can still give us a favorable inclination toward placed brands. Taken together, this means that we might buy products we’ve seen placed in TV or films even if we view the placements as an advertising attempt at manipulation.
These days, almost every branded product in TV programs and films was intentionally placed there for a fee. Product placement is big business, simply because it works. Research has shown its indirect effects may be more potent, in that they’re apparently more resistant to suspicion.