Case Study: What Makes Product Placement Work


Table Of Contents


The Challenge Of Measuring Success 

When it comes to traditional advertising, measuring the success of a campaign is rather direct: How many people used the promo code? How many people swiped up on the Instagram story? Or how many social media mentions were given after the airing of a new commercial?

With product placement, measuring success becomes more of a challenge since there is no direct way to measure the impact made on viewers. However, two researches took to the web to find some answers. In this blog, Hollywood Branded dives deeper into new research that uses social media and web traffic to measure the impact of product placement and what makes it work.

Is Controversy A Secret Marketing Tool

Product Placement On The Rise

It's getting easier and easier to avoid traditional advertising. We have SKIP buttons, smartphone distractions, fast-forwarding capability and even the ability to pay to not have to sit through those annoying commercials. While this realization has been a #blessing for viewers (being able to binge watch an entire season of Stranger Things with no distractions? Yes please!), it hasn't been as pleasant for advertisers.

This is why product placement continues to grow in popularity. Product placement eliminates ad avoidance by making the brand part of the content. This means you don't have to worry about capturing the attention of the consumer - you already have it! How convenient! But how do we know that product placement truly works? How can we measure the impact made on consumers from a placement? This is where two researchers stepped in to find some answers.

The Study

Two researchers collected data on almost 3,000 product placements for 99 brands from the fall 2015 television season to measure the impact of product placement. Beth Fossen of Indiana University and David Schweidel of Emory University conducted the study focusing specifically on social media activity and web traffic. The researchers zeroed in on two questions:

1. How does product placement activity impact online word-of-mouth and online traffic for the featured brand?

2. What extent does product placement work independently or synergistically with traditional television advertising to drive online behaviors?

The product placements used in the study came from 77 primetime broadcast programs during the fall 2015 TV season. Additionally, researchers collected data on the total amount of money each brand spent on traditional advertising during the same broadcast. To measure social media activity and web traffic, researchers used the number of Twitter mentions for the placed brand and volume of online traffic to the brand's website. 

product placement guide

The Results

According to the new research published in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, prominent product placement in television programming has a net positive impact of website traffic and social media activity for the featured brand. 

Overall, the results of the study support the idea that product placement can help marketers reach consumers that are adept at avoiding traditional advertising (A.K.A. those who pay to avoid ads, press SKIP the second the little button pops up, and turn to scroll through Instagram rather than watch an ad...yes, we're all guilty!).


Furthermore, the researchers found that verbal mentions had an even higher level of online word-of-mouth and website traffic opposed to visual placements. Think about the last time you sat down to watch a television show. Did you scroll through any social media apps or send any text messages while you watched? Did you have your laptop out in front of you to send an email or online shop? This is known as media multitasking.

According to a study by Parrot Analytics, 13% of Americans do nothing else when they watch television. With the other 87% of viewers admitting they multitask while watching television, undistracted viewers are a minority. While a viewer's focus may shift from screen to screen, a verbal placement can ensure that they are reached at any given moment, no matter where their eyes are focused.

A verbal mention also requires a higher level of plot integration opposed to a product simply being seen in the background. When an actor says the brand name or a product is connected to a storyline, the brand gets even more attention. Let's go back to Stranger Things. What if Mike had given Eleven toast every morning and she never developed her obsession with Eggo waffles? Sure, Eggo waffles could have been paced in the background of any convenience store scene, but we never would have gotten the iconic moment of Eleven running out of the convenience store with box upon box of those fluffy, golden breakfast classics (anyone else suddenly hungry?!). 


Product Placement Precautions

Researchers also warned brands of the opposite effect: overt inclusion of brands leaving a negative impact. When a brand is placed in a scene that is doesn't necessarily fit or is blatantly obvious, it can irritate, distract, or cause negative buzz about a product. Now this doesn't mean that any specific mention of a brand or clear view of a logo is a bad placement, it just means that the placement needs to make sense. The product should fit into a scene just as products fit into our everyday lives. 

The research also suggests that commercial advertising occurring close to television placements rarely increases online engagement, and sometimes evens damages engagement. Say you saw a specific brand of shampoo in a new TV show. Then, the very next commercial or advertisement is for that exact shampoo. Would this enhance your image of the shampoo? Or would it seem a little...overbearing? Most viewers would agree that the double advertisement is a bit much. And that’s where the danger of product placement starts to seep in. Brands want to be remembered, but only in a positive, fiscally beneficial way. 

So the next time you finish up a Netflix binge, urgently craving a waffle… ask yourself this question; did that T.V session just burn away all of your calories-or did Stranger Things manage to get in your head?

how your product placement program works

Moving Forward With Product Placement

Thanks to the research from Beth Fossen and David Schweidel, we've been able to learn a little more about the impact that product placement can have on a brand. To learn more about product placement and how it helps brands leave a lasting impression, check out more of our blogs below!

Are you interested in learning more about how entertainment marketing can benefit your brand? Check out this informative video! 

Watch the video to learn what is Product Placement