Measuring the Impact of Product Placement with Brand-related Social Media Conversations and Website Traffic

Beth L. Fossen and David A. Schweidel , 2018, 18-129-10

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Advertisers are growing increasingly concerned about the ease with which traditional television advertising can be avoided. Many are turning to product placement activities, where brands are visually and/or verbally incorporated into television and movies. Unlike television commercials, product placement is embedded in the programming itself and is difficult to avoid. Despite its popularity, there is limited research in marketing that has investigated the impact of product placement.

In this research, Beth Fossen and David Schweidel investigate the relationship between product placement in television programs and the volume of social media activity and website traffic for the featured brand. Using data on nearly 3,000 product placements for 99 brands from the fall 2015 television season, the authors find that prominent product placement activities – especially verbal placements – are associated with increases in both online conversations and web traffic for the brand, with some evidence of decreasing returns at high levels of prominence.

Their results also suggest that television advertising occurring close to placements rarely enhances these increases in online engagement. While they find that both the main effects of advertising and product placement can be associated with increases in online WOM and traffic, their interaction does not enhance (and oftentimes dampens) the positive relationship with online engagement. These results highlight the importance of coordination between marketers, networks, and content creators so that marketing investments are not squandered.

For marketers considering product placement, these analyses suggest that placements can be used to reach consumers, even those who have become more adept at avoiding television advertising. This research offers some of the first evidence that product placements can relate to detectable and quantifiable changes in consumers’ online behaviors, suggesting that online WOM and traffic may provide marketers with a means of evaluating their product placement effectiveness. Moreover, it suggests that offline methods may serve as a means to reach consumers and encourage them to engage with brands online.

With consumers engaging in media multitasking, marketers should be particularly mindful of the impact of the verbal aspect of product placement. While consumers’ visual attention may shift from screen to screen, verbal (and audiovisual) placements offer a means of reaching them regardless of the screen on which their eyes are focused at a given moment. Verbal placements may require less coordination or be less costly than audiovisual placements. In deciding among different types of product placement, as well as coordinating these efforts with advertising, marketers must ultimately weigh the potential benefits against the financial costs.

Beth L. Fossen is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and David A. Schweidel is Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School, Emory University.




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