Friday, March 30, 2007

Nielsen Reaching into Product Placement!!

I travelled to the Nielsen Ratings website a few days ago to check out some research for class and came across something revolutionary for product placement!!! On March 21, Nielsen announced that they are creating a new, web-based system called Place*Values, which "allows users to quickly determine the past performance of product placements and evaluate new placement opportunities." We can now see what and where products are being placed in the media, as well as if products are being recognized by consumers and if these consumers are more willing to purchase them based on seeing the placement.

I think that this is a great opportunity to see if product placement is indeed effective in the media. As criticism over product placement saturation and cannibalism increases, this system will give marketers a chance to see through their product and through the minds of viewers. Obviously, THE CONSUMER is the most important player in marketing, not the placements. If people don't want to see your product or see it too much of it, they will not buy it. That's a fact of advertising, and this system will help to find this.

Many TV channels and companies have signed on to this new system, including A&E, CBS, CourtTV, Discovery, FOX, Magna Global, Mediacom, OMD, PHD, Scripps Networks, Sprint, The Weather Channel, Twentieth TV and Zenith Media are the first users of Place*Values. I am sure that FOX will be reeling in the product placements (view my March 9th post on American Idol) and I am not sure what placements are present on The Weather Channel. I will have to check that out...

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see the information that this new program provides. I am very excited to watch this process unfold as we begin to decode the heart of product placement!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Oprah has POWER!

I admit that I am a fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show. I am more likely to watch it when she has my favorite celebrities on the show or when she is discussing a key scandal. However, if Oprah talks about a product on her show, it is big business. As a consumer, I trust her opinion and may indeed consider the products that she talks about. In my Advertising e-newsletter that I received yesterday, there was an article about how Oprah recently influenced General Mills' sales in a large way. You may be thinking, "General Mills is already a huge company, how could Oprah make any difference?" Well, I thought the same thing, but the article proved it. If a product is "placed" on Oprah's show, big sales can result - even for a giant company like General Mills.

Oprah's personal trainer recently created a new diet called the "Best-Life Diet." In the diet, there are " so many General Mills products that "the company believes it made a difference in third-quarter sales." Sales climbed up 9% and the CEO of General Mills, Steve Sanger thinks that the company indeed "did a little better, after that Best-Life Diet came out." This was much free publicity and indirect product placement, and I am sure General Mills is not complaining.

Besides helping General Mills by simply talking about them or "placing" them in a new diet plan, Oprah has also been known for helping authors and their books. Oprah's Book Club is a list of books that Oprah compiles herself, recommending them to her viewers. Oprah's audience is vast and trust her, so whatever book she chooses, the audience follows. This article states that "Oprah's recommendations had a bigger impact on the sales of books than anything we have previously seen in literature, or seen since." All of the book's that Oprah selects instantly surge onto the best seller lists and the authors reap the benefits. This is a simple word of mouth and product placement initiative that the authors do not have control of, but, like General Mills, take it as it comes.

Oprah is indeed an opinion leader and trusted by all ages of the public. When she uses product placement, the product instantly becomes successful. This is a huge power to have (I wish I could do that!). Products yearn for indirect product placement like this and only creates more motivation for them to create the ultimate product - a product that even Oprah would use.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Promotion of the Blog (Round Two)

To continue promoting my blog, I posted on two other classmates' blogs (relating to product placement, as well), with hopes that people will see their blog, read my comment, then visit my blog! It should generate some extra traffic.

On both blogs, the writers discussed Second Life and how it is a good or bad opportunity for certain products. I am impressed with Second Life, as are they, and we feel it is a good way to market and "place" our products out in the virtual world with hopes for "real-world" purchases.

Check out these blogs and visit my posts!



Friday, March 23, 2007

Placing Bloomsberry in Second Life

For my audience research class, I am creating a media plan for Bloomsberry Chocolate, a gourmet and all-natural candy bar company based out of New Zealand. Bloomsberry sells milk chocolate and dark chocolate candy bars that contain a large concentration of natural cocoa. The chocolate is also uniquely packaged in a box that is labeled for a mature, fun crowd. Some of the most popular bars are packaged as "Emergency Chocolate," "Oral Pleasure," and "The World's Greatest Pick-up Bar." This fun and creative product is beginning to gain exposure in the US and has much potential to become even more popular. Therefore, it would be very effective to market Bloomsberry Chocolate in the new interactive, 3-D virtual world of Second Life.

Second Life is an interactive community in which you create your own virtual character, called an avatar - all in the convenience of your own PC. You can buy land, talk with other avatars, pick your own clothes, and dye your hair purple - you can do anything! Real-world companies also buy land in Second Life and build islands that actually market their products. The main purpose, according to this article, is to "both promote in the virtual world and also generate buzz outside of Second Life." Organizations like Reebok, IBM, and Major League Baseball all have land in Second Life for avatars to visit, explore the products, and ask questions with real-life employees. You can design your own shoe at Reebok, browse through computers at IBM, and play some baseball at MLB Island. Click on each of the three links I provided above to see what some parts of the islands look like!
In class, we visited LeoBurnett, Mercedes, and Paper Couture - all very different islands. I realized that every island in SL has a different purposes (business and meetings for LeoBurnett, advertising and consumer interaction for Mercedes, and basic fun for Paper Couture. It is very obvious how simple it can become to reach consumers by marketing in Second Life. Bloomsberry can do this, too, by placing its product on a chocolate island for people to see, or even create their own island.
From working with Bloomsberry for class, I think that it would be smart for Bloomsberry to build its own island. The company needs to increase it exposure and create buzz for its product. In Second Life, Bloomsberry has the potential to reflect the fun and humorous personality of its brand. For example, we can give avatars the chance to browse through the funny and risque chocolate bars - even provide them FREEBIES! Imagine being able to carry around a free, "Emergency Chocolate" bar for when you might need it most! How cool would that be? Bloomsberry already has a unique positioning strategy and Second Life is a great way to show it. As Second Life is growing each day and soon all companies will have their own islands, Bloomsberry should jump on the bandwagon, too. The company has the potential to really make their chocolate shine in SL as a product that no one has ever come into contact with in SL. In turn, my hope is that it would lead to real-life profit and buzz. Tastes like Second-Life success to me!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Let the Games Begin!

As a child, my parents never let my brother and I own a Nintendo, GameCube, or XBox. They felt that video games would take up too much of our time or would be too violent, controversial, or a fake representation of reality. I never minded, I guess. Therefore, I know nothing about video games - absolutely nothing. I also know nothing about online video games, because they never really striked my interest. I have always used online technology for email and news, not video games. So, when MediaPost sent me an article about product placement in video games, I was shocked to see its large presence in the games. In fact, product placement is sweeping into the video games industry at some of the fastest rates ever.

As traditional advertising has become outdated, companies are trying to market products in new, innovative ways. This is where product placement comes into action. The video game industry is rapidly growing in consumer use. For example, according to the article above, the popular online action game Counter-Strike "generates more than 5 billion player minutes a month, compared to 4.8 billion for a U.S. TV show." This is a fantastic opportunity for a company to invest some advertising dollars here and place their products in the games for players to use and see. The article states that companies are, more than ever, taking part in "integrated, interactive product placements, where a product can be used as an integral part of the game play." In turn, it can eventually lead to a real-life purchase.

After reading the above article, I decided to Google "product placement and video games" out of curiosity. Over 3 million hits came up on my computer!! A huge number!! I guess product placement in video games is more evident than I thought it was. This article I found at shows that this is so. It stated that today, there are 132 million teen and adult gamers in the country. That is a very large audience, much larger than many other mass media outlets. Obviously, marketers see this and have spent $56 million on in-game advertising and product placement last year. It is also projected that spending will reach $730 million by 2010! I cannot even believe it - that is almost an 800% increase! Putting these facts together, "a videogame ad or placement costs $30 per 1,000 people reached." Sounds like quite the investment!

So who are some of the big names that are playing this product placement game? There are so many, that they cannot all be listed. Here are some of the well-known companies involved:
  • Apple - Graffiti artists in Atari's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure can listen to their iPod while tagging walls with Montana Gold spray paint.

  • Procter & Gamble - In Danica's Secret 500 Challenge, a game sponsored by P&G, gamers create characters that compete on the track. The game combines the athlete of Danica Patrick, a female Indy 500 star, and Procter and Gamble's deodorant line.

  • Visa - In CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder, a crime-solving game, Visa's fraud-protection service "alerts players to a stolen credit card that helps gamers crack a murder case."

  • Sony - In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow , players use Sony Ericsson phones to find clues to catch terrorist suspects.

  • Toyota - In Whyville, an online game for teenagers, users can visit Toyota's Club Scion to decorate their cars with everything from colors to wings to self-made bumper stickers.

Visit this slideshow on to see some more product placements in popular video games. They are everywhere!!!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Time to Bow to "Idol"

"American Idol" has been one of the most successful shows of the decade. Not only does the show provide the benefits of being family-friendly and fan-friendly , but it is a show that consists of an audience that is large and loyal. Viewers keep coming back for more season after season, providing an ample opportunity for marketing. There is a huge, diverse audience where everyone and anyone has a chance to see your brand. Perfect time for product placement and it is indeed very apparent. I have been an "Idol" fan since Kelly Clarkson and I even admit that I went to a Clay Aiken concert way back when, but I am still watching, just like everyone else, and I know that marketers on and off the show are seizing the opportunity to catch me with their products.

According to
this article I found in my weekly American Advertising Federation e-newsletter, Idol is huge in the product placement and promotions market. First, as anyone who regularly watches the show will notice, there are three red Coke cups sitting right in front of Randy, Paula, and Simon. It is more than easy to read and recognize the white letters of "Coca-Cola" on the TV screen. Maybe too obvious, but American Idol is banking in on the placement - receiving about $26 million for the brand to be displayed on FOX. Not too shabby.

In addition to the obvious Coca-Cola placement, I also noticed, while at Wegman's grocery store the other week, that "American Idol" is creating partnership with other products to promote and place two brands in the consumer market! I am a huge fan of the low sugar, Slow-Churned Edy's Ice Cream and went over to the product to check out the price at Wegman's and see if it was on sale. To my surprise, I found five new, appealing flavors covered in blue packaging with the "American Idol" logo on the front. Turns out, "American Idol" teamed up with Edy's to create five new flavors. Consumers are urged to buy the ice cream, try it out, and (surprise!)
vote on their favorite where the winning flavor will hit the shelves for good...sound familiar to some popular show on TV? The strategy is working, though - Edy's Slow-Churned Ice Cream sales are up 20%, according to the above article. It also states that as a part of the partnership, Ace Young, a finalist (and very attractive finalist, I must say) from last season's "Idol," will "surprise 11 consumers participating in the online voting by showing up at their homes [with] Edy's -sponsored ice cream parties." The "American Idol" and Edy's partnership definitely took me by surprise after my grocery trip and I am still debating whether to try out the "Take the Cake" flavor. The motivation to meet Ace (in my dreams!) and, more importantly, have a say in a new ice cream flavor sounds like a good deal to me! Plus the idea of cake sounds so yummy.

Idol has also created partnerships with McDonald's Happy Meals, Nestle, and Pringles. Not only is it increasing sales for these products, "American Idol" is placing itself on popular items that consumers are constantly buying, thus constantly exposing them to "American Idol." The show is forced into consumers' minds and I am sure some people are tuning into the show who have not in the past, just to see what the hype is about. This is a very smart product placement strategy that "American Idol" is taking and its ratings are proof of that with
31.2 million viewers on Tuesday and 28.9 million on Wednesday for the week of February 12-18. We can bow down now...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Spring Break, Baby!

Next week, IC students will be leaving campus to enjoy Spring Break. Many of my friends are taking trips to Florida, Costa Rica, Cancun, even Utah to ski (even though I would rather be somewhere warm). I am one of the unfortunate ones going nowhere warm and will be home in Ohio. It will really be nice to relax, though. Anyways, with Spring Break upon us, this is an ample time to discuss how marketers use product placement within the college party and Spring Break environment to create brand recognition, awareness, and positive associations about their products.

This article on MediaLife Magazine Online discusses the Las Vegas area as a Spring Break retreat and party zone for college students. It is very evident that marketers are aware of the opportunity to target these students who are visiting the area to party and have a good time. It seems to be that the primary strategy for targeting this demographic is to catch them off guard and place a product where a student may least expect it. In turn, they will be forced to acknowledge it and put it in their mental file. It may also lead to a purchase at some point, most importantly.

For example, marketers place branded goods such as towels, pillowcases, beach umbrellas, and coasters in hotel rooms, lobbies, and common areas of hotel facilities. I know I would not expect it if I laid my head down for a bit and saw a Corona at my eye level. Placement is also taking place in lobby billboards and scrolls, in elevator shafts, and on, believe it or not, key cards. I would never think that the key to my hotel room would be an opportunity for a company to market to me, but it is indeed a very smart place to place a brand. I need that key the entire trip, so I will see the brand the entire trip and will most likely remember it. Finally, and something that is my favorite - samples! Hotels or public vendors give out gender-specific or non-gender specific “survival” packs at check-in or during the vacation that urges brand awareness and product trials. Everyone loves free samples, so I feel this would be very effective as well.

According to the article, approximately 200,000 to 300,000 students visit Las Vegas on their Spring Break. This is a very large and promising target to reach. Many well-known companies are taking advantage of this audience and already have decided to market and associate their products with 2007 Spring Break including Gillette Razors, Secret deodorant, Bic Razors, Ice Breakers, Axe, Sunsilk, Rohto V and Crest.

Also, and more obviously, alcohol is a major sponsor and marketer during this time. This article states that over Spring Break, men "are reported drinking 18 drinks per day and the average woman drinks 10 per day." In addition, 40% of men and 33% of women reported being drunk daily. This is a large statistic that demonstrates Spring Break alcohol use. Beer and alcohol companies KNOW that students are out to party and drink, so they place their brand all over the Spring Break premises, so people will drink THEIR brand. The link to the article shows pictures of Budweiser on a beach ball and a large banner that is advertising a party associated with Bacardi, where the logo is largely displayed.

So, all college students beware! You may be getting away from the world of school for a while, but you are not escaping the world of advertising and product placement. Marketers are out to get YOU on Spring Break and will find you when you least expect it. Be on the lookout, if you can, and most of all, have an enjoyable and safe Spring Break!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Victim to the 'A Word'

While advertising continues to be a rising career option and media opportunity to interact and inform the public about a product, a recent study posted on Media Week found that more and more ads are victim to the 'A Word' today - Avoidance. This is not good news for advertisers and agencies who are trying to position a product in a positive light and encode it in the the minds of their targeted audiences. I decided to delve further and look at some numbers. Let's look...

Research conducted by Microsoft and Starcom found that between 10% and 15% of adults aged 17-35 are “ad avoiders” - meaning they commonly do not like advertising and find it “annoying.” I did some math based on statistics from the US Census Bureau, and found that this age group consists of more than 64 million people. Therefore, taking only 10% of this group is more than 6.4 million people! 15% is 9.6 million people! Either way, that is a large number of people that do not like ads. It is especially startling for advertisers because this 17-35 age group is beginning to become brand loyal. They also have much purchasing power in areas like cars, household items, and apparel. It is not a good sign when such a large number is actually dodging around their ads.

Therefore, how do we get these people, or at least try, to buy our product? Product placement is the answer, of course! A nice quote by Tom Willerer, director of insights and analytics at Starcom, stated, "We have to think more creatively. It’s about trying to buy what’s not for sale. Is this easy? No. But we’re viewing this as a creative problem to solve. This is the new reality of doing business.” Marketing and advertising has gotten to the point of needing new strategies to reach "avoiding" customers. Product placement should do the trick because it provides less "clutter" and less expectation of seeing an ad, hence less interruption in the flow of a film or TV show. There is no way of escaping product placement, or avoiding it as we shall say, so I am sure this is the one area of marketing that will not be harmed over time. We shall see...