Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why I Hate Paid Product Placement: An optimistic post by Steven Silvers reminds me how much I dislike product placement, at least in the form it is practiced by most companies and most movies/TV shows.

Silvers believes that the golden age of product placement has already passed: “The fact is that product placements and “paid media” are just advertisements pretending to not be advertisements. The more ubiquitous they become, the more certain that social responses will negate much of their marketing value.” He also warns of possible regulation, citing a speech by FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein last year.

I would distinguish between two forms of product placement. One is earned product placement, which involves a product finding its way into the script organically, because it is appropriate to the character and the story. Think of the Aston Martin in the Sean Connery-era Bond movies. It was there because it told you something about Bond, his tastes and lifestyle and personality.

But that kind of product placement has been almost entirely replaced by paid product placement. Almost all of the products you see in the next Bond movie will have paid to be there. Their presence tells you more about the brand and its aspirations than it does about the character—unless you count the fact that Bond’s charisma is now for sale to the highest bidder.

Paid product placement depends for its effectiveness on deception. The more the viewer believes Bond would really drive a particular car or use a particular laptop, the more effective the placement is. But if a viewer understands it for what it really is—if there is full transparency—it is rendered meaningless, or at least no more effective than any other paid celebrity endorsement.

Of course, disclosure is currently both obscure and incomplete, usually involving a “The following have provided…” list included in the movie credits, visible for about 5 seconds to those too lazy to leave their seats once the action has ended. It’s a long way from the kind of transparency that I’d like to see, and there is definitely a case for regulatory action to insist on improved labeling.


  • At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The golden age of product placement has certainly passed. We placed 112 Philips products in 'For Your Eyes Only' at a cost of precisely nothing. EON were glad of the help in dressing their sets.

    I don't suppose you could do that now.

    Adrian Wheeler


Post a Comment

<< Home