Is There a Place for the Science Industry in Product Placement?

Have you ever noticed that certain films and TV shows feature conspicuously branded products? Take for example the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away. Was it a coincidence that his volleyball was called Wilson? You may have thought nothing of it at the time but you just witnessed what is one of the best examples of branded product placement. Wilson happens to be a sporting goods company that not only had their volleyball feature in the movie but had ‘Wilson’ became an actual character. To make it even better, Wilson did not pay to have their product in the movie. Talk about lucky. That’s a lot of brand and product promotion, without purchasing a single advertisement slot. Sounds like an avenue to explore…

So what is product placement? According to the business directory it’s “an advertising technique used by companies to subtly promote their products through non-traditional advertising technique, usually through appearances in film, television, or other media.” There is paid product placement to which the company pays the film or show to have their product featured, or, like the example used above, there is product placement the film or show uses with the product’s company permission.

Some other famous scenes of both types of product placement that may ring a bell are FedEx – also in the movie “Cast Away;” Pizza Hut, Pepsi Co., Doritos and Reebok in “Wayne’s World;” and lastly Nike in “Back to the Future.”

New Tactics for a New Media Age

There are many benefits to product placement. The first and most important is that it gets you precious screen time with millions of viewers. What better way to advertise than positioning yourself innocently in front of someone who is kicked back and enjoying their favorite show or film? Wouldn’t you rather have them open-minded to your advertisement than annoyed at yet another commercial they will probably fast-forward through?

Within recent years, viewers have had access to a multitude of TV shows and movies on demand, due to the soaring popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO––not to mention countless others. As traditional advertising revenues decrease, product placement deals soar. In 2015, nearly every time someone watches a show or a movie they are subtly––or not so subtly–– struck with product placement.

According to Priceconomics, “Television attracts close to 71.4 percent of all paid placements, and about 75 percent of all broadcast-network shows feature placements of some kind.”

The methods of entertainment consumption have also changed. You have the TV, the computer, your smartphone, and the ability to use them interchangeably.

In a 2014 study by Wired magazine, researchers tracked 165 online video views and 1.53 billion logins over a year, and determined that total TV viewing over the Internet grew by 388 percent in mid-2014. Additionally, the number of unique viewers more than doubled, growing 146 percent year-over-year.”

‘Native’ Brand Placement

The second benefit of product placement is that there is an “appreciation of realism.” This means the product is not just put into the storyline as an awkward outlier but is effectively marketing itself by showing how it is used as part of everyday life. People can imagine themselves with the product better, thus creating the perfect medium for advertising. It’s similar to the content marketing approach of “native advertising” in publications.

Like everything else in the world, product placement costs money––but we all know in order to make money, you must spend money. In the upcoming James Bond film, “Spectre”, Mexico is the prime product placement. A $22 million deal was agreed upon between the two so that the film “will be a truly pro-Mexican affair with beautiful shots of the country, a leading role for one of the nation’s most glamorous actress and a strict rule that Bond’s nemesis is not from Mexico.” Who knew a country could be used as a product placement?

When a product vendor makes a deal with a show or film, they expect a return. This return essentially is the profitability of those seconds your product is on the screen. For example, 10 seconds of product placement in a TV show may be an estimated 10% increase in sales for that month. With these estimates, though, there are always risks involved but, hey, it is part of the marketing business.

Companies that specialize in product placement know just how to decrease that risk and increase that benefit. Using them as a resource to maximize your product placement is a good start into this type of advertising.

Science Industry Challenge

Speaking of product placement, has anyone noticed the lack or nonexistence of life science product placements? Everyone knows that scientists have a fun side. They too go to movies and binge-watch TV. Why are they not one of the targets for this medium of advertising?

There are opportunities out there that are not being taken advantage of. TV shows or films could use beakers, lab coats, syringes, goggles, and other laboratory equipment in certain scenes, but they haven’t yet. Could it be time for some life science products to spruce up the film and TV industry…maybe even take it by storm?

“The Big Bang Theory” is a good example to use. This show has been airing for over 8 years, and has had quite the following. Funny, popular, viewed by millions, and a perfect setting for science product placement.

Is it possible for brand placement in the life sciences to be successful? Will it work for some companies and not others? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime,
the Chempetitive team has decided to challenge ourselves with our own creative product placements.

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