As a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America, I automatically am sent a daily e-newsletter about PR issues and trends. I SHOULD read them, I really should, but, like every other person being bombarded by spam, I usually delete some of them (okay, most of them) right away. However, I recently opened one of the emails and a news story from Brand Week discussed reverse product placement http://www.brandweek.com/bw/news/recent_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003538681. Reverse product placement? I asked myself. Does this mean taking a product out of its normal setting, like putting a Budweiser in front of a toddler or putting some Heintz Ketchup on some ice cream?? Nope, those are just wrong.
While regular product placement is putting a real-world brand into a fictional environment to expose it, reverse product placement is "creating a fictional brand in a fictional environment and then releasing it into the real world." This is uncommon today, but it is still prevalent in some instances. My favorite example is the beloved Willy Wonka chocolate bars. If you walk into any candy store, you can actually buy a Wonka Bar. Before Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka Candy as a brand, did not exist. However, as the film became extremely successful and popular, to children most specifically, Nestle decided to bring the fictional candy to life. Now, any child (or adult, for that matter) can get a Wonka Bar, just like they saw in the movies! With the most recent Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka, I am sure that Nestle saw their sales jump as a new generation was exposed to the classic movie.
I can see how reverse product placement can yield a company much success if the company (like Nestle) has enough power and strategy to bring a popular, fictional product to life. Everyone would love to own what they see in the movies! However, I can see the difficulties with this, as well. Movies are popular, but I don't think a population is large enough to buy a enough of a fictional product.to make it profitable. The market would be too small.
Chad Stoller, executive director of emerging platforms at Organic, the New York online ad shop, puts it all into perspective: "Reverse product placement probably wouldn't work because the audiences would be too small. It's a great opportunity, but it's more like a novelty. I don't know if it could survive in the market." I agree, but I must admit, I am victim to buying a Wonka Bar...are you?