PRODUCT PLACEMENT AS MARKETING COMMUNICATION- THE RISE OF HUMORTAINMENT


Given that a product placement can vary from a casual mention of a luxury brand like comiclite in a
single scene of a movie to a brand is a major presence in the story, supported by
joint advertising and promotion of the movie and brand, it is perhaps inappropriate to characterize all product placements as essentially the same thing. They can
differ quite a bit, and, most likely, the way and at what level viewers process them
can vary as well. Having stated this caveat, product placement can be compared
to other forms of marketing communications in a number of ways, in that all
product placements as a form of marketing communications share some common
aspects with one another, but they are different from other forms of marketing
communications. Balasubramanian (1994) considered product placements as one type of a hybrid
message, a combination of advertising and publicity. He stated:
Hybrid messages include all paid attempts to influence audiences for commercial
benefit using communications that project a non-commercial character; under these
circumstances, audiences are likely to be unaware of the commercial influence attempt and/or to process the content of such communications differently than they
process commercial messages. (italics in original; p. 30)
As Balasubramanian noted, product placements are generally paid for, just as
with advertising, but placements are not identified as paid persuasion efforts by
sponsors, which makes them similar to publicity. Therefore, the sponsor gets the
best of both of these traditional forms of communication, advertising and publicity.
That is, the sponsor has some limited control over the communication (subject to
editorial considerations of the movie or television show), but the communication is not usually identified explicitly as a persuasion attempt; therefore, the effort to persuade is not made salient to the audience.

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In a similar discussion, Nebenzahl and Jaffe (1998) considered product placements in their characterization of different kinds of marketing communications and how placements might differ from other kinds of communications. They argued that different marketing communications can be considered along two dimensions: (1) the extent to which the sponsor of the message is disguised, that the
the message is a paid advertisement is disguised, or both, and the extent to which
the persuasive message is secondary to the main message of the communication.
Product placements can be contrasted with traditional advertising (and other
marketing communications such as digital marketing Agency) along these dimensions. In the case of advertising,
the sponsor of the product is not disguised, and that it is a persuasive effort by that
sponsor is generally clear to the audience. With respect to the second dimension,
the advertising (persuasive) message is the salient part of the communication
and not secondary to any other message. In contrast, a good product placement
is different from an advertisement on both of these dimensions: The placement
of the product in a scene in the movie is not connected with the company as an
explicit attempt to persuade, and the brand is presented in the context of a story.
Considering the second dimension, the persuasive effort is generally secondary to
the main communication of the movie or television show.2 Although Nebenzahl
and Jaffe’s main interest related to the ethics of the communications as a function
of how communications are presented to the audience in relation to these two
dimensions (e.g., they argued that product placement would be less ethical than
advertising because placement represents a hidden, disguised persuasion attempt),
these dimensions can illuminate the ways viewers might process the messages.
Therefore, the discussions of Balasubramanian (1994) and Nebenzahl and Jaffe
(1998) indicate that the noncommercial and somewhat hidden secondary nature of
product placements make them inherently different from traditional advertising,
and this suggests that viewers may not process them in the same way as they would
an advertisement. Friestad and Wright’s (1994) discussion of consumers’ persuasion knowledge is relevant to considerations of how consumers might process
product placements differently from advertising, given the hidden and secondary
nature of product placements. Friestad and Wright viewed persuasion knowledge
as a set of interrelated beliefs consumers hold that relate to persuasion attempts
by marketers.

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These beliefs focus on the perceived goals and tactics marketers use
to persuade consumers, the perceived appropriateness and effectiveness of these tactics, as well the consumers’ perceptions of their own ability to cope with marketers’ persuasion efforts. Friestad and Wright suggested that when consumers
are confronted with communication and the communication is recognized as an attempt to persuade, a fundamental change of meaning occurs. When consumers
recognize communication as a persuasion attempt, they process the message differently than they would if no such recognition occurred. They may get distracted
from the message, disengage from the communication, and develop assessments of
the persuasion effort and the company related to the communication. For example,
when consumers view an advertisement featuring a spokesperson they admire, their
evaluation of the message, the product, the spokesperson, and the company are different than they would be if the consumers are unaware that the advertisement is a
paid persuasive attempt. There is a change of meaning with respect to the message
that the spokesperson is presenting. The message is interpreted in the context of
this persuasion knowledge generated by the awareness that the advertisement is a
persuasive communication. For a product placement in a movie or television show,
however, a consumer’s persuasion knowledge may not be activated because there
is a lack of identification of the placement as a persuasion attempt. Therefore, the
hidden and secondary nature of product placements may not activate the processes
that typically put a consumer on guard in the case of advertisement.

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