Saturday, May 5, 2007

Some Last Words...

Spending a semester decoding product placement has indeed been an eye-opening experience. It is everywhere, even in some of a consumer’s most private places, and I didn’t even know it! It shocked me!

While product placement is indeed everywhere, what equally shocked me was the incredible need for it. Many argue that the technique intrudes on people’s lives in a world where advertising is already cluttered. They say that it is unnecessary and takes away from the original quality of a movie, TV show, etc. However, the advertising world is struggling very, very much and needs product placement desperately. TiVo is allowing people to skip through commercials; it is more than easy these days to click out of an Internet ad that pops up on a computer screen; also, consumers live day to day multi-tasking, so it’s more difficult for radio ads to be heard by its listeners, as they are doing a million other things while the ads is running in the background. With all of these new ways to “escape” advertising, businesses and products are finding much difficulty in advertising and getting their products into the market. This is where product placement comes into play.

Product placement is a very efficient and effective way to expose a product to its audience in places and times when they least expect it. As I said that traditional advertising is becoming more predictable and easier to get away from, there is no way of escaping product placement. From the Apple computer in Sex and the City to Corona inflatables on the beach during Spring Break to a Coca-Cola cup placed in front of Simon Cowell during American Idol, product placement is the best way to generate awareness and recognition of a brand without being too obvious. The method permits the consumer to see the brand name, acknowledge it is there, and make a mental note of it. When the placement is in a proper and unique setting, people are more likely to remember it when it comes time for a purchase, and hence a sale results!
So, that is why product placement has become so bizarre, so appealing to marketers, and so prevalent in our society – it has much opportunity for creativity and uniqueness. As I found, product placement can take the form of a video game, a book, a brand encompassed into a reality show, a ballpark, even Oprah is taking part in some product placement. The entire practice is out-of-the-ordinary and gives marketers the chance to break out of the traditional medium of advertising. They can then catch their audience in a different way where they will not only notice the brand, but, more importantly, remember it. All brands want to be remembered, and this is what product placement can do.

It will be interesting to see where the technique continues to go in the future. It is on the rise now, and I believe that it will continue to grow as technology becomes more advanced and advertising becomes even more difficult to do. As an Integrated Marketing Communications major, I can definitely use product placement to push and position a brand or client into the public eye, making consumers want more of it. I continuously find myself on the lookout for product placement now, as a trip to New York City a few weeks ago gave me much opportunity to do this. It was very interesting to find all of it, and it definitely was everywhere. The technique is fascinating to me and maybe, I will be the one breaking into your bathroom stall in a few years. Will that really be necessary, though? You may not think so, but how else can I get your attention?

Thanks for reading!! I enjoyed "Playing with Product Placement" very much and learning the blogosphere, too!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Ad...In a Port-A-Potty???

In my dorm bathroom, someone posted a sign this weekend, telling us to wipe the seat after we use the toilet. Kind of random, I must say, to do this and place her concern on the back door of the stall, but I saw the sign very easily and read it! This little escapade in the stall got me thinking about my previous posts about car and board game product placement - also random and appealing mediums for placement. So, this made me delve into the world of bathroom product placement and advertising. And, easily enough, it was there and is becoming more and more common, too. Yes, indeed, marketers are coming to a bathroom stall near you!

I Googled 'bathroom advertising,' then 'bathroom product placement' and
this website came up for the American Restroom Association (that exists?). An article was posted at the bottom that talked about a wrapped Port-A-Potty, just like the wrapped cars. In 2006, a company who worked closely with the New York AIDS Walk obtained some portable bathrooms and covered them in bright red colors that marketed the walk. The information on the bathrooms created "a 360-degree visually stunning billboard effect" that was present in Central Park for one weekend and was used at the Indy 500, as well. In Central Park alone, the bathrooms were seen by an "hundreds of thousands of regular weekend park users." The stalls would definitely grab my attention as I am walking through Central Park or watching the Indy 500. I would also think it would be interesting to actually use the restrooms and say that I used a unique, hot red Port-A-Potty that no one has ever seen before. Sounds like effective product placement strategy!

The bathroom advertising industry is rapidly growing. This outlet allows marketers to use advertising and product placement to,
according to USA Today, "be more innovative — to zig when others zag" and "find clever ways to reach people. When someone says, 'Let's put advertising in bathroom stalls,' another says 'That's great. It's a captive audience.' " This article, written in Pittsburgh, says that advertising or product placement in a bathroom stall prevents the consumer from getting away from it. People cannot turn off a channel like on TV or radio, or "X" out of a pop-up like they can with an online ad. Using product placement in a bathroom "breaks through the clutter."

Bathroom product placement is now classified as 'out-of-home advertising' that is thought to become a profitable medium in the coming years. This mode of product placement expands into other outlets like ATM screen advertisements, ads on public telephone kiosks, bench signs, and bus ads. The 'out-of-home' industry creates $2.1 billion in business per year, "nearly half the $4.4 billion spent on the total category of outdoor advertising." This is a HUGE amount of money, and I am interested to see what will happen. Yes, I do not want people barging into my most private moments, but with some of the changes in mass media, brands have to reach you SOMEHOW! Bathrooms are a place where everyone goes, so marketers might as well try it. Product placement is supposed to occur when you least expect it, and the bathroom is definitely unexpected!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Board Games Galore!!

My brother and I are very competitive in the classic board game, Monopoly. I always win except for a few of those times when I spent the entire game in jail. Thinking about board games, what if a company incorporated their brand into a board game? Sounds like a great opportunity for product placement, and as I found out, it is actually happening!

This article I found discusses a new "Twists and Turns" Version of The Game of Life. This game will be a more modern version of the board game in which players actually use a small, Visa credit card - instead of play money. Visa will also include money management booklets. So, yes, little Tommy and Susie will be learning how to use a credit card at their very young age. Many parents and money experts are concerned with this, as the update will "unravel the game's sage money lessons and inculcate the preteen set with a credit-card mentality." I agree with the concern somewhat. While I see the argument that if a child uses a credit in the "play" game, they may misinterpret the way it is used in the real world and lead themselves into debt. But, I think that this is a good opportunity for parents to teach their kids about money management in the real world by playing the game. I also think this is a very, very effective product placement strategy on Visa's part. Starting to encode the Visa name in the mind's of the younger generations through this game will increase their likeliness to recognize and use Visa credit cards when they grow up. Smart!

In addition to The Game of Life, Monopoly has also updated its classic version of the game to a more modernized one, called the "Here and Now" Edition. In the game, tokens include a laptop computer and a Labradoodle dog as well as branded items like a Toyota Prius, a New Balance Shoe, McDonald's French Fries, and a Motorola RAZR Mobile Headset. Landmarks featured are Boston's Fenway Park, Las Vegas Blvd., Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, and Minneapolis' Mall of America. While I am not sure if any of these companies or landmarks paid to have their product in the game, this again is a very effective use of product placement, whether free or not. People young and old may play the game and if they see the brands and locations in the game in the real world, not only will they recognize it, but they might buy the product or visit the place, as well. In turn, sales can result, and another great vehicle of product placement ensues.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What does that car say??

Every day, I have to walk up a dozen or so stairs around one of the busiest places on campus. Yesterday, upon climbing those stairs, I noticed a van to my left. The van was not your typical mini-van though - it was a Coca-Cola van! It was just sitting there in the parking lot with no one in the driver's seat. It was very cool, I first thought, then realized I was a victim to some subtle product placement. Ironically, the van was located at one of the busiest spots on campus and was just sitting there. It was indeed red with the big Coca-Cola logo stamped on the side doors with little logos surrounding the rest of the van. I decided to look into vehicle wraps as a form of product placement and I found some interesting results...

Obviously, covering a vehicle in bright colors, unique shapes, or appealing messages will be seen by many people. According to this article, car advertising is a "new and noticeable" means of street marketing that "gets the brand to places where traditional media fail to reach—the residential street, the workplace, the school." Michael Lyons, founder of AdsOnCars service in the UK , states that "If [car advertising] is done correctly people, don't only see these cars, they actually stop and stare and talk about it later. On your trip to work you may pass a hundred posters. But if you see a wrapped car I'll wager that will be what you remember." Ithaca College can definitely be a difficult place to reach students, so I think Coke did a good job of bringing the van to campus. It is very important to stimulate brand awareness and recall in unexpected ways, and I think the van did the trick.

Most importantly, vehicle wrapping is very, very cost effective. Billboard advertising can cost anywhere from $600 to $2400 per month. On the other hand, a "fully-wrapped" company van costs only "$3500 - with a high-quality wrap that can last up to five years." An average wrap has about 8 million impressions in a year, so if you were to do the math, having that van or car for five years with your brand name vividly plastered on the side has a value that is huge!!! Sounds like a great product placement outlet for me!!!

I never was aware at how great vehicle advertising was. It is one of the cheapest and most effective means of marketing and I will keep it in mind once I enter the marketing world. Take a trip around these websites that specialize in vehicle wrapping. Some of the work they have done is really neat and definitely would get me talking!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Look out there...In left field!

I recently received an article from MediaPost about how the Boston Red Sox and Bank of America Corp. are renewing their corporate partnership with each other - and hence their work with product placement. With the beginning of baseball season, this is appropriate to note. Ballparks bring hundreds of thousands of fans a year to games, creating a perfect means to integrating a product within the game or the ballpark. With the Red Sox/Bank of America deal, the Red Sox promise to keep the Bank's logo in Fenway Park for all to see. The Red Sox benefit because it creates an opportunity for fans to open a "Red Sox-branded bank account." For every dollar that cardholders spend on retail items, they earn one point. The points build up and can be redeemed for everything from merchandise to special messages on Fenway Park's scoreboard during a game - even throwing the first pitch at a World Series game. Cost of the first pitch at the World Series - 100,000 points.

Bank of America is very proud to be associated with Major League Baseball, as they have a similar deal other baseball teams and stadiums. The company is using these sponsorships to "cement our brands with [some] of the most iconic teams in baseball" and become associated with the sport, rather than other sports. A baseball focus would create more brand recall and awareness, and thus, more product placement success. Good strategy to me!

Other brands have also broken into the sports market, where spectator counts are high and where brand exposure opportunities are high, too. In tennis, Lexus was the advertising and product placement leader during the 2006 US Open, placing their logo on the actual net, as well as around the center stadium. It cost them over $13 million to do so! In extreme sports, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and Vans sponsor major X-Sport tours and events throughout the country, usually during the summer. In turn, their logos and samples are plastered throughout the events and guests cannot leave without seeing the brand names somewhere. Most obvious is during the college football bowl season. Huge brands line up to sponsor bowl games - Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, The Outback Bowl, Fed-Ex Orange Bowl, All-State Sugar Bowl, Champs Sport Bowl,and Bowl. These brands are placed in the logos of the games and in turn, show up on TV, on the field, on the scoreboard, even on t-shirts. There are millions of eyes that will see those brands, so if you have enough money to sponsor a bowl game, go for it!

With such a large opportunity for exposure, sports product placement and sponsorships are HUGE! Anytime you go to a ballpark, arena, or anything dealing with sports, make a mental note of all of the company and brand logos you see. Also, note the name of the building you are at. Whenever I go watch the Cavs in Cleveland, I watch the game in Quicken Loans Arena. Sounds kind of tacky, but I had never heard of Quicken Loans before they switched the arena's name...

Friday, April 6, 2007

Livin' La Vida Latina!

All throughout high school, I was enrolled in Spanish classes and enjoyed them very much. When I came to Ithaca, I actually considered minoring in the language because I knew that the Hispanic market was growing and that it would be to my benefit to continue buffing up my Spanish skills for my career. However, I decided to drop the minor and stick with a writing minor, but I am still very aware of the growing Spanish population and remember important aspects of the language. It will indeed help me in my career as the Spanish population is booming here in the United States.

I found an article through my PRSSA Issues & Trends e-newsletter that discussed the ways that large American companies are using product placement to reach the growing Latino market. J.C. Penney recently held a contest that awarded one young high school girl with an opportunity for a shopping spree. She won the spree on the show, Mi TRL, which airs on the network, TR3 MTV, a Hispanic MTV channel. After some serious shopping, the girl showed off the "gorgeous, gorgeous" clothes on the show in a later episode. With a high teen Latino market watching the show, J.C. Penney was able to show off its junior clothing through the fun contest and place its product on the MTV Latino catwalk for all of its audience to see. A very good strategy indeed!

Reaching Latinos is becoming more a creative task. Marketers want to place something in the media for the growing market to see, but want it to be appropriate and creative, so the audience will acknowledge and recognize its significance. The article states that "clients initially were hungry for any kind of placement, but now they want it to be highly creative, inventive and appropriate." For example, the Hispanic market loves soccer, so in an episode of the Spanish TV show, Amores Mercado, there was a soccer game and what was found on the field? Nothing other than a Coca-Cola sign! It was just what the audience would see at a real game, and the placement reemphasizes positive brand associations for the drink.

While Hispanic-targeted product placement may seem easy and effective (and it surely is!), it is also pricey. Recently, on the Latino variety show, Sábado Gigante, the host of the show consistently talked about (for 13 weeks to be exact) how "fun it is to vacation at Disney World." While it may have seemed like regular conversation, if the host talked about Disney World, or any product for that matter, before the commercials, it cost that product $25,000 and $50,000 - each time - to be mentioned there!

Marketers are seeing how important it is becoming to reach the Latino market now, and it will only become more and more important. I am excited to see how it may affect me when I begin working in a PR or advertising agency. I am glad I have some basic Spanish skills and am aware of their lifestyles. I guess some things in high school did pay off!

Here is a list of some of the major brands and companies that are involved in product placement, targeting a Spanish audience. It is a diverse list!

Sprint Nextel
Clorox (Check out the link!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

So what's the Hype about Chef Revival?

I recently received the figures for the Top 10 Product Placements of 2006 in my Marketing Daily e-newsletter. Take a look at the list here, along with the top programs that used product placements. It was no surprise that Coca-Cola was number one due to its avid role in the reality-show phenomenon, American Idol, which was the individual program leader in product placement (see my previous post). Coca-Cola had 3,355 occurrences for the year. Other obvious notables included Nike, Dell, and Cingular. However, number two on the list was Chef Revival Apparel with 1,592 placements. What?! I thought to myself. I have never heard of this brand and I define myself as "highly aware" of the media now that I am deep into my IMC major. I decided to scope it out to see what Chef Revival is all about.

Chef Revival is an apparel and supply company that provides uniforms and cooking supplies for chefs. Sounds like any other food product company, right? Well, yes. The only difference is that it has no PR or marketing department - it has become known in the world from reality TV. Chef Revival provides all of the uniforms for Fox's Hell's Kitchen, which gave it some of the best brand showing of the TV season.

It all started when Kim de la Villefromoy wanted to launch a chef attire company that was set at affordable prices for common chefs. He did so and now, a popular, typical Revival jacket, which has "colored panels, fancy trims and is offered in a variety of lengths," costs around $60. Big-name chefs began to hear about the company and last September, Kim got a phone call from a friend that said that a TV production company was looking for apparel for a new show, Hell's Kitchen. Revival sent the show 40 sets of clothing and 20 sets of knives at no cost. Hell's Kitchen producers ended up choosing the Revival Metro jacket, "which displays the company logo much more prominently than its other models." Chef Revival is now reaping the benefits and free placement. The popularity of the cooking show has made it the second top placement of the year! Sounds nice to me!

It was also interesting to see that the Chicago Bears placed at number 5, due to the success of "According to Jim." Some interesting product placements indeed due to such simple programming. I wonder what 2007 will bring....