"Mr Bond, is that an Omega watch you're wearing and an Aston Martin you're driving?": Product placements in movies

"Mr Bond, is that an Omega watch you're wearing and an Aston Martin you're driving?": Product placements in movies - Griffith Hack

24 April 2012

As a regular item in NeedToKnow: Trade Marks, we highlight a scientific or psychological study on consumer behaviour that has caught our attention.

Embedded advertising

Product or brand placement can be described as “embedded advertising”, as the product or brand appears not in an obvious stand-alone advertisement, but is embedded within the scenery, plot or dialogue of a movie, television show, video game or book. Product placement not only avoids the problem of viewers “switching-off to” or “fast-forwarding” stand-alone advertisements, but they also serve as an implied endorsement by the actor or producers for the product. Further, product placements can be carefully matched to the demographics or target audience of the movie or show. Whilst brand placements are not new, their presence has now become very widespread. Product placements now appear in various forms ranging from mere incidental props to an integral part of a plot. Due to the confidential and proprietary nature of agreements between brand owners and entertainment producers, few studies have been carried out on the effectiveness of product placements.our tastes or preferences or our final buying decisions. However, research has shown that popularity signals have a far stronger effect than we appreciate.

The influence of the media

The effectiveness of different types of product placements was the subject of a recent experiment by researchers at the University of Alabama.1 In their study, the researchers tested the memory and perceptions of three types of brand placements:

where the brand appeared in the background of a movie without it being used by any of the characters (eg. a can of Pepsi in the background of the movie Miss Congeniality;


where the brand was used in some way by one of the main characters (eg. a character pouring Evian water in the movie Legally Blonde; and


where the brand was connected to the story in some manner (eg. a police officer using a can of Sprite to obtain fingerprints from a suspect in television show The Client ).

The movie clips were carefully edited and the results were controlled for prior viewing of the movies and exposure times of each brand. The 373 participants thought they were taking a general memory test, and one of the questions specifically asked them whether they remembered any brands from a list. As a final thank-you for their participation, they were also allowed to pick one product from a table which contained all of the products tested (Dr Pepper, Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, etc). Again, their choices were secretly recorded, and then statistically analysed (while controlling for pre-existing brand preferences).

Experiment Results

The researchers found that the types of brand placement affected how well the brands were remembered, with type (b) and (c) placements [brand with the character or connected to the story] being most remembered, then type (a) [incidental appearance]. The researchers hypothesised that “the greater the activation of a brand during the comprehension process when watching a movie, the greater the likelihood that the brand will be recalled in future”. Further, the longer the brand appeared in the movie, the better was its memory recall. Interestingly, the researchers found that when the brand was used by an actor which the participants had rated as “liking”, the participants were more likely to evaluate the brand positively. Finally, participants who were exposed to a brand in the movie were more likely to choose that brand after the movie (compared to participants who had not been exposed to the brand). Interestingly, the type of product placement (type (a), (b) or (c)) did not affect the likelihood of later choosing the brand – ie. the preference for the brand was increased regardless of the type of brand placement.

The positive effects of brand placement are not likely to be temporary or transient, with the researchers concluding that “brand placements may have a long-term effect on implicit memory and perceptions of familiarity”.

The results of the study provide some useful insights for businesses involved in brand and product placement.

For further information, please contact:

Chris Sgourakis, Principal
Email Chris

[1] Yang, M & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R. 2007. The effectiveness of brand placements in the movies: Levels of placements, explicit and implicit memory, and brand-choice behavior, Journal of Communication, 57, 469-489.Science, 311: 854-856.