By: Rachael Winterling
In today’s media entertainment, product placement has come to play such a starring role because the strategy of integrated marketing communication (known as IMC) has fostered an awareness of how pieces of public perception can complement each other. “As a result, product placement has become part of the overall advertising and public relations mix, integral to building brand awareness and positive associations” (Galician 105). Product placement plays a giant role in products advertising and now “we live in a brand-consumerist world” (Lehu 47). In further analysis of the history of product placement, subliminal messaging, and product placement in Hollywood films (Read about the history of cinema) with focus on Apple products, one will be able to see the strong effects of product placement in modern society.
Product placement has grown dramatically in the past 25 years. Initially it was regarded as a somewhat sleazy practice, always hidden, almost never admitted. “Exhibitors relentlessly opposed the practice. However, by the end of the 1970s that opposition no longer existed, and product placement became a way of life for Hollywood movies” (Segrave 1). Product placement had been growing sharply in the period from roughly 1978-1981, but that growth had taken place fairly quietly. The legendary placement in the 1982 release E.T. was made. “Its success for the candy product Reese’s Pieces ushered in a period of spectacular growth in product placement—a growth that was very noisy and well reported on” (Segrave 164). After E.T.’s use of product placement new companies sprung up in L.A. that’s sole purpose was turn represented products into movie stars. Originally E.T. producers contacted MARS Candy Company in 1982 to ask if they would like M&Ms to be included, but they turned down the opportunity. (Segrave 165). Hersey was then asked if they would like Reese’s Pieces to be included in the family-oriented movie and they said yes and put up one million dollars in promotion money.
Sales of Reese’s Pieces reportedly jumped 70 percent within one month of the film’s release. Two months later more than 800 cinemas that had not previously stocked the previously stocked the product at their concession stands were then handling the item. As time passes the E.T. placement was cited again and again and became the reference point for product placement (Segrave 165).
E.T.’s use of product placement proves the strong effect it has on its viewers. Of course not everything is rainbows and butterflies in the business industry. Shown left, Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2 is shown with nothing in his hands. “Tool making company Black and Decker also noticed that fact and, since they had paid $20,000 to have Willis perform a hands-on usage in “heroic” fashion with its cordless power tool, it sued” (Segrave 182).
Product placement isn’t about sales; it’s about brand awareness, claims expert Samuel Turcotte. The only certainty in terms of measuring the effectiveness of product or brand placement is that there is a strong and urgent call from advertisers to know whether their investment is profitable.
To date, however, there is no reliable and complete standard measuring tool… In reality, everything initially depends on the objective given to the placement. Is it to increase awareness of the brand, to improve its image, to confirm or modify its positioning to make known its advance in research and development, to launch a new product, or to increase its sales? (Lehu 92).
Product placement is used to reinforce brand awareness and enhance the brand image while encouraging the act of purchasing (Lehu 93). For example, Tom Cruise’s wearing of Ray-Ban sunglasses’ Wayfarer, in Risky Business was credited with reviving a dying model and driving the sales to new levels (Segrave 168). Wayfarer’s U.S. sales rocketed to 360,000 pairs in one year. Interestingly, sales of Ray-Ban Aviators also soared after Tom wore them in the 1986 box office hit Top Gun.
While the advantages of product placement to moviemakers and to corporate brands are clear, the benefits to consumers are more elusive. At the basic level, the studio or producer may reduce prop costs by a quarter to a third through a simple trade or product use for the placement…For the marketer or corporate brand, product placements offer a series of related benefits. Foremost is that the product’s appearance in the film is that it is an “ingrained message” that is not expected by the audience, and thus received in ‘a happy, receptive state of mind’ (Galician 111).
Subliminal messaging is a very controversial topic in the media. Dave Lakhani believes that everyday individuals are subliminally persuaded. His reasoning is that everyday individuals take actions, buy products, and share beliefs without critically thinking about them.“THE ESSENCE OF SUBLIMINAL PERSUASSION IS THE MESSAGE: THE MESSAGE YOUR AUDIENCE HEARS, RECIEVES, AND EXPERIENCE AS BEING TRUE” (Lakhini 2). Persuasion is about messaging one-to-one or one-to-many. Subliminal persuasion occurs when a message is successfully implanted in the mind of an individual or group to (Lakhini 2).
This image is taken from the cover of August Bullock’s The Secret Sales Pitch. Many individuals will not notice the subliminal message found in the image.When the book is flipped over the following image is revealed. This is one of many examples Bullock gives throughout the book. He states on the back cover, “ALTHOUGH YOU may have seen the face, you were probably not aware of the word “SEX” when you looked at the cover of this book. It is hidden in large, bold letters in the white spaces between the bottom plants. As soon as you discover it, it will emerge with startling clarity and you will always “see it” after that.”
James Vicary, a prominent motivational researcher revealed he had conducted secret experiments in a New Jersey movie theatre using a device know as a “tachistoscope.” “A tachistoscope is a machine that can flash words or images on a screen for very brief periods of time—often as a little as 1/300 is a second” (Bullock 9). The tachistoscope was used to register commands unconsciously and influence the viewer on a subliminal level. As illustrated, Vicary flashed words every five seconds throughout the film Picnic (1955). “Vicary claimed that the flashed messages increased popcorn sales an astounding 57%. He offered the service of his company throughout the world” (Bullock 10).
Product placement is sought-after by advertisers because it can bring numerous advantageous to the product. “This is an important point, since contrary to received wisdom, product placement is not a communication technique reserved only for the world’s leading brands. Both the smaller actors in a market and the challengers can also make skillful use of it.” (Lehu 61). Product placement is a great resource for brands of all sizes. “The US brewer Budweiser pays to place its beer in eight to 10 films per year on average, but all in all it appears in 40 to 50 feature films each year, because the producer or the props appear in the shot” (Lehu 47). Factors that can influence the cost of a placement include: the brand’s fame, identification of the brand, the film’s budget, the type and genre of the film, the film’s credit, the barter deal, the importance of placement, the location of the placement, integration in the story, contact with the principal actors, exclusivity for the brand, recurrent placements, the distribution type, accompanying communications, and the placement contract (Lehu 72-76). “In 1995, BMW supplied the makers of Golden Eye with prototypes of its Z3 roadster; within a month of the film’s release, pre-booked product orders were almost twice as large as BMW’s internal forecast” (Galician 187).
Apple has spent decades strengthening its power in Hollywood. In 2010 and 2011, Apple received the overall product placement award. In 2011, Apple, appeared in 17 of 40 films that were number one in the U.S. box offices (Sauer). “The Apple communications budget is tiny compared with that of HP, Dell, NEC or Microsoft. This is why, in line with its positioning, Apple has always tried to communicate differently. As it happens, product placement is on promising possibility” (Lehu 62). Unlike many companies, Apple never pays for its products to appear on television or in movies (Burrows & Fixture).
The company’s gadgets were discussed or shown 891 times on TV in 2011, up from 613 in 2009, according to researcher Nielsen (NLSN). In the same year, iDevices appeared in more than 40 percent of the movies that topped the weekly box office, according to Brandchannel, which tracks product appearances. That’s nearly twice the penetration of the next most common brands in Hollywood—Dell Chevy and, Ford (Burrows & Fixture).
Apple’s dominance grows as product placement’s importance grows. Due to DVRs, fewer people watch TV ads. Apple is chosen because of social media and marketing trends; the majority of Americans know what Apple is or own one of its products. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project began tracking Smartphone penetration and as of May 2013, 56 percent of cell phone-owning American adults owned a Smartphone and of those, 25 percent of cell phone owners said their device was an iPhone (Bostic). With a good chunk of American’s owning an iPhone, movies and television shows automatically choose to use a product that is popular among the viewers especially when they don’t have a company paying for its placement in their work. For example, Gossip Girl’s “first four seasons, none of the hit show’s glamorous teens carried the most talked-about Smartphone of the last five years, Apple’s iPhone” (Bostic), but they showcased the Blackberry because a product placement deal they had with Verizon. After the deal ended, the main characters began using the iPhone for the remaining two seasons, costing Apple nothing. With Gossip Girl being a hit television show marketed towards teenagers and young adults, the industry wanted to use products that most related to its audience. Another iconic example of Apple’s product placement is found in Legally Blonde. A sherbet orange Mac is introduced when protagonist, Elle Woods stands in line with her soon-to-be-unboxed Mac. The strongest use of Apple product placement in Legally Blonde is demonstrated when Elle Woods sits in a seminar surrounded by black monolithic laptops with their users looking miserable while she looks pleasant with her sherbet orange Mac (shown below).
Apple’s history of product placement did have some technical difficulties along the way. “In the 1990s, Apple’s PowerBook laptops included a company logo on the lid that faced the user sitting at the computer” (Bostic). When the laptop was open, the logo appeared upside down to viewers. Therefore, filmmakers had to place Apple logo stickers over the actual logo to have it appear correctly onscreen. When the lid was opened, the logo was upside down. Holtzman knew this was inconvenient to filmmakers and had stickers printed to cover the actual logo and have it appear correctly onscreen. A few years after Steve Jobs returned in 1997, he flipped the logo (Bostic).
In conclusion, product placement plays a tremendous role in society. The integrated marketing communication made a major impact starting with E.T. use of Reese’s Pieces. To fully understand the impact of product placement the analysis of its history and subliminal messaging is necessary. The main point of product placement is brand awareness, to familiarize the audience with specific products. Apple is one of the powerhouses in the product placement world. The majority of the time Apple does not even pay for placement in films or television shows due to its popularity and use in everyday society.
Bostic, Kevin. “Smartphones Now Account for 56% of US Market, Apple’s IPhone at 25% Share.” Apple Insider. Apple Insider, 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/09/09/smartphones-now-account-for-56-of-us-market-apples-iphone-at-25-share>.
Bullock, August. The Secret Sales Pitch. San Jose: Norwich, 2004. Print.
Burrows, Peter, and Andy Fixter. “Apple, the Other Cult in Hollywood.” Bloomberg Busines Week. Business Week, 10 May 2012. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-10/apple-the-other-cult-in-hollywood>.
Galician, Mary-Lou, ed. Handbook of Product Placement in the Mass Media. Binghamton: Best Business, 2004. Print.
Lakhani, Dave. Subliminal Persuasion. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.
Lehu, Jean-Marc. Branded Entertainment. Philadelphia: Kogan Page Limited, 2007. Print.
Sauer, Abe. “Announcing the 2012 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners.” Brand Channel. Brand Cameo, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012/02/13/2012-brandcameo-product-placement-awards-021312.aspx>.
Segrave, Kerry. Product Placement in Hollywood Films. Jefferson: McFarland &, 2004. Print.