When Lady Gaga and Beyoncé released a music video for their single, Telephone, the blatant and numerous product placements for brands such as Virgin Mobile and Hewlett-Packard incited backlash. These product placements, in which products are strategically placed or embedded within a medium for marketing purposes, has become increasingly prevalent (Russell & Belch, 2005; Wiles & Danielova, 2009). This increase may be unsurprising, as the strategy can be successful. But how does product placement work?
Product placement may be more effective when branded objects don’t appear centrally, but in the background of movies or TV shows. These products then become implicitly associated (unconsciously and gradually) with the emotional aspects of the viewer’s experience. This is known as evaluative conditioning, which can result in more positive implicit attitudes toward new stimuli (Cacioppo, Marshall-Goodell, Tassinary, & Petty, 1992).
With these ideas in mind, Christopher Redker (Ferris State University), Bryan Gibson, and Ian Zimmerman (Central Michigan University) conducted a study on background product placement to see if different variables affect implicit brand attitudes. Participants were first asked about their brand preferences towards Coke and Pepsi along with their attitudes towards the sci-fi genre. Those who had neutral attitudes towards Coke and Pepsi then watched a segment of a sci-fi movie. The experimental group watched a segment of the movie that included background product placement for Coke, with the brand appearing on a billboard in the background. The control group watched a segment of the movie that did not include any product placement for Coke.
After the movie segment, participants were asked more questions about their brand attitudes. Explicit attitudes toward the four brands were measured using a 7-point Likert scale, disguised as a pilot study irrelevant to the first half of the study. Implicit brand attitudes were measured using Implicit Association Tests, in which Coke and Pepsi were paired with negative, positive, or self attributes.
Viewers who liked sci-fi had more positive implicit brand attitudes after watching the clip, compared to those who had other movie genre preferences. In addition, those who disliked sci-fi shifted their implicit brand attitudes to be more negative. Explicit brand attitudes, in contrast, were shown to be unaffected by product placement.
This study illustrates how implicit brand attitudes are affected by background product placement in a movie as a function of genre and genre preferences.
* For a copy of the original article, please contact R. Mar (see profile for e-mail).
Cacioppo, J. T., Marshall-Goodell, B. S., Tassinary, L. G., & Petty, R. E. (1992). Rudimentary determinants of attitudes: Classical conditioning is more effective when prior knowledge about the attitude stimulus is low than high. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 28, 207–233.
Redker, C., Gibson, B., & Zimmerman, I. (2013). Liking of Movie Genre Alters the Effectiveness of Background Product Placements. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 35, 249–255.
Russell, C. A., & Belch, M. (2005). A managerial investigation into the product placement industry. Journal of Advertising Research, 45, 73–92.
Wiles, M. A., & Danielova, A. (2009). The worth of product placement in successful films: An event study analysis. Journal of Marketing, 73, 44–63.