Day 53: Why product placement is sneaky

Can I ask you a question? How many times have you been marketed to today? Really think about this question for a moment. I’m guessing quite a few times. Perhaps you had your  marketing radar on and you picked up on it and shrugged it off.   Or maybe, like quite a few of us, you have not consciously registered all the times that you been faced with  marketing as you go about your day.   Morgan Spurlock from Super Size Me fame delivered a Ted talk in 2011 around the world of brand marketing and  product placement.  I have to admit his talk left me feeling a little bit disheartened by the direction that marketing world is taking.

Morgan Spurlock is probably best known for his documentary Super Size Me.   That was a documentary where Morgan ate only McDonalds for a 30 day period and filmed the effects that the diet would have on his health. The  movie was wildly popular and more importantly it started a discussion about the health effects of a fast-food diet.   This time round Morgan wants the discussion to be around marketing and the advertisers lack of transparency. His Ted talk was really just a teaser for his documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a documentary about product placement in media funded entirely by product placement and sponsorship.

What is product placement and brand marketing

Product placement simply means that a product has been inserted into a movie or TV show in exchange for money.  You typically find this in higher budget productions with high profile brands. As the product has been entwined in the story world of the film, viewers tend to not register it as advertising as quickly as they would if they saw a billboard advertising the same product.

Brands are always finding ways to leverage high profiles and fabricate a relationship  with them  (by paying them) to endorse their brand and products.

Examples of product placement and brand marketing

  • Companies paying celebrities to endorse a product via Twitter of Facebook
  • Song lyrics incorporating a brand
  • Celebrities being photographed at events wearing high-end gowns they were given.
  • Characters in movies and films drinking a certain brand of soft drink.
  • Cooking shows

Where’s the transparency?

Morgan’s Ted talk included some clips from his documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.In these clips Morgan was hitting up big brands asking them if would sponsor his film about product placement and marketing. The majority said no.  Baffling right? Morgan’s documentaries do pretty well and would get any endorsed products seen by  lot of people, but marketing companies do not want that transparency that actually outs them as being big players in product placements.

Two quotes from marketers that Morgan approached really stood out for me and just summed up why marketers would oppose suddenly becoming transparent about their marketing methods.

Robert Friedman: “You know it’s funny,because when I first hear it, it is the ultimate respect for an audience.”

Guy: “I don’t know how receptive people are going to be to it, though.”

Morgan actually sold the naming rights to this Ted talk.  Want to know how much money he made? You will have to hit play to find out.

Vanessa Rose