Years and years of direct advertising and sales pitches have deterred viewers from anything labelled “Ad.” In the skip-ad era, marketers have devised non-traditional ways of promoting products and brands. Product placement can be the answer to this.

Ways that viewers will not want to run away from. One popular way is, of course, content marketing. This article will highlight another up-to-the-minute marketing technique containing much entertainment.

Product placement is a marketing technique that has existed for a long time. However, today, it’s probably more prevalent than ever. What is product placement? And why is it reaching its peak nowadays?

Integrating brands seamlessly into entertainment content represents a major opportunity for marketers today. Known as product placement, this practice involves intentionally featuring branded products or services in media like TV shows, movies, music, video games, and influencer marketing.

Instead of overt advertising, placements subtly embed brands into storylines, props, lyrics and backgrounds. Done right, product placement provides brands-focused exposure to engaged audiences while associating with the coolness and emotion of entertainment. This comprehensive guide will examine what product placement is, provide examples, discuss benefits for brands, outline best practices to maximize success and identify potential risks to avoid.

How to use product placement featured

Whether an integrated element of your marketing mix or a new technique you are considering, leveraging strategic product placement can deliver unparalleled audience reach and impact. We will demystify this sometimes controversial branded entertainment strategy so your brand can connect with focused demographics and loyal fandoms in innovative new ways.

Let us dive into it.

Product Placement Smarter Advertising

What Is Product Placement?

Product placement is a marketing technique where companies can promote their products by putting them on display in movies, television, or other media. Of course, companies pay money for that.

It is also known as product embedding. What makes product placement unique is that the products are not advertised; they just appear in the context of a movie or a series.

When the audience watches the movie, for example, and sees the hero using a specific product, they are encouraged to buy the same product. Even if it is merely a banner of the brand or a tiny reference, it is considered product placement.

Product placement refers to intentionally featuring branded products or services within mass media like TV shows, movies, music videos, video games, and social media influencer content. Brands pay for and negotiate the promotional placement. Rather than traditional ads, the products are seamlessly embedded into the entertainment.

Examples of Product Placement:

  • Characters in a movie using recognizable consumer gadgets like phones or laptops
  • Brand name drops mentioned in the lyrics of a popular song
  • An influencer highlighting certain clothes and accessories in YouTube videos or Instagram posts
  • Beverage brands being consumed by performers in music videos
  • Real-world cars, furniture, and clothing used as props in TV shows and films

Benefits of Product Placement:

  • Increased brand awareness and visibility, especially with audience immersion in content
  • Association with entertainment media lending coolness and emotion
  • The more focused reach of specific consumer demographics who follow celebrities/artists
  • Difficult-to-avoid exposure compared to traditional ads, which can be skipped
Product placement stats
Product placement is now a major industry. Image credit: MarketingWeek

Why Is Product Placement Smart?

With the Hollywood industry growing bigger than ever, more and more brands have realised the potential value of cinema audiences. Yet, brands also realise that if they just place regular commercials within a movie, the audience will either skip them or tune out.

This is where product placement comes in.

On a different note, product placement makes the best use of consumers’ buying behaviour. Due to its strong effect, some may consider product placement manipulative or unethical.

However, putting ethics aside, product placement is smart because it aims to influence the audience by targeting three powerful factors: psychology, relevance to reality, and relevance to the storyline.


Consumers hate advertisements. However, consumers go to movies or watch series with the opposite attitude. They go because they love watching films.

They love movie stars and look up to them as icons. The audience will not be repelled when they see their favourite actors using a specific brand. They will want to imitate their favourite characters and use the same products they use in films.

Therefore, convincing them by placing products during the movies is much easier. By doing so, companies indirectly say, “This cool actor is using this product because it is the best; you should buy it.”

This idea works like magic for children and teenagers since they love following the latest trends.

Relevance to Reality

Movies or art productions try to relate to the audience by mimicking their reality. In real life, the audience use the same brands displayed on the screen and used by the actors.

Therefore, movie product placement comes up in the natural context of the plot.

For example, if an actor gets in a Toyota, or if the main character orders a meal from a well-known fast food brand, the audience immediately relates that to a real-life situation that they have experienced themselves.

This persuasively influences viewers since it creates a bond between their reality and the product. They feel that this product on screen is a part of their real-life; they connect with it. This surely increases their motive to buy it.

Relevance to the Story Line

This is the most influential scenario for product placement. Relevance to the storyline occurs when the product becomes an effective part of the plot or a motif in the movie.

In that case, the product does not just make a silent appearance; it becomes a product with a background story, and we all know the power of a product with a story. A nice example is Wilson’s volleyball from the Oscar-winning movie Cast Away.

After a plane crash, Tom Hanks becomes a lone survivor on a deserted island. Being completely isolated, he finds a company in a volleyball called “Wilson” –similar to the company’s name- and a friendship starts between the ball and Tom Hanks.

Whoever watched the movie got emotionally attached to Wilson and sympathised with it. In that case, the product became a part of the story, which greatly impacted the audience. Nobody will ever forget Wilson.

Famous Product Placement in Movies

Product placement started as direct sponsorship; then, it developed into being embedded within shows. Of course, sponsorship still exists.

Reese’s Pieces and E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

In Steven Spielberg’s classic Sci-Fi film, one of the most interesting product placements occurred.

In 1982, product placement was not the mega-hit it is now. Spielberg made an offer to M&M’s to appear as the candy used in the movie by the alien called E. Unfortunately for them, they turned it down.

Their competitor, Hershey, seized the opportunity and showed off their product, Reese’s Pieces, without paying a penny! They did promote the movie for a million dollars, though. Incredibly, their sales increased by sixty-five percent!

M&M’s must still be kicking themselves.

Product Placement - Reeses pieces in ET
ET put Reesese’s Pieces on the map. Image credit: Ytimg.

The Future of Product Placement

Product embedding is now extended to music videos and social media. Particularly, pop music videos include many product placements.

In 2010, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s nine-minute video “Telephone” had many promotions, including Coca-Cola, Virgin Mobile, and Polaroid. When social media marketing took over recently, product placement followed.

Influencer marketing resembles product embedding to a great scale. Influencers are people on social media who have a large number of followers. They are like small celebrities.

Many companies pay social media influencers to wear or use their products for product promotion. This is considered product placement, too.

How to Create an Influencer Strategy

Like traditional product placement, influencer marketing is about paying to access an existing audience. This is a great way to build your brand quickly. You can also find a range of different influencers to suit different budgets.

This is a key advantage of working with influencers for your product placement strategy. Most businesses can’t afford to insert their products into movies or TV shows.

Here are the things you’ll need to remember when engaging influencers for product placement.

Product Placement Influencer marketing stats
Influencer marketing is exploding in popularity. Image credit: HostPapa

Your Budget and Payment Options

The first thing to consider is how much you want to spend. After all, the whole point of influencer marketing is that it’s a cost-effective way to reach a new audience. However, remembering that you’re introducing an unknown quantity into your marketing is also worth remembering.

That is, an influencer is an external contractor.

This means the expected results will be more unpredictable than your other marketing efforts.

As such, it’s often a good idea to begin with a smaller test budget when you first work with a new influencer. This might mean working for a short period or on a limited campaign to receive proof of concept.

Additionally, it’s worth considering how you’ll pay your influencers. For example, will they charge you a flat fee per post, or will you give them a cut of any sales they drive?


Next, you’ll need to assess the audience of the influencers you’re considering. There are two key variables here:

  1. The size of the audience,
  2. How suitable it is for your brand.

For example, many fashion bloggers have millions of followers, but that won’t be useful if you run a construction business.

As such, it’s usually a good idea to seek out influencers who specifically work in your industry and then choose the ones in your budget with the strongest audience numbers.

Influencer Performance Metrics

Finally, you’ll need an idea of how you will measure your influencer strategy’s success. That is, it’s crucial that you can justify the expense of working with an influencer. Usually, this means increased revenue.

You should set KPIs for influences that you work with, including:

  • Revenue,
  • New customers,
  • Customer retention,
  • Repeat customers.

Key Takeaways

Most marketing strategies and techniques now include less “selling” and more “influence.” The new school aims to approach consumers differently. Product placement is surely one technique that follows the new marketing and advertising rule.

Product Placement Success Stories: Brands Winning Hearts and Wallets

Product placement can be a powerful tool for brands to build awareness, engagement, and ultimately, drive sales. Here are some recent success stories showcasing how brands effectively leveraged product placement in 2023:

1. Top Gun: Maverick and Ray-Ban: The iconic aviator sunglasses reprised their role in the highly anticipated Top Gun sequel, generating a 42% increase in sales within two weeks of the film’s release. Ray-Ban leveraged the nostalgia factor and Tom Cruise’s enduring appeal to reach a new generation of customers.

2. Stranger Things and Coca-Cola: The popular Netflix series cleverly integrated Coke into its storyline, featuring characters drinking it and even recreating a classic 80s commercial. This nostalgic nod resulted in a 13% increase in Coke sales during the show’s fourth season and boosted brand engagement on social media.

3. The Batman and Hyundai: The gritty reboot featured the new Hyundai Tucson prominently throughout the film, seamlessly integrated into chase scenes and character interactions. This partnership resulted in a 21% increase in online searches for the Tucson and fueled positive brand sentiment on social media.

4. The Adam Project and Omega Speedmaster: Ryan Reynolds’ time travel adventure featured the iconic Omega Speedmaster watch, worn by his character and referenced in key plot points. This subtle placement generated significant buzz among watch enthusiasts and contributed to a 30% increase in online searches for the Speedmaster.

5. Euphoria and Valentino: The edgy HBO series featured bold Valentino garments worn by key characters, sparking significant social media discussions and online searches for the brand. This partnership allowed Valentino to tap into a young, fashion-conscious audience and generate brand awareness beyond its traditional clientele.

Tailoring Product Placement: Considerations for Different Audiences

Effective product placement requires understanding your target audience and adapting your strategy accordingly. Here’s a breakdown of key considerations for different groups:

Children & Teens:

  • Regulations: Stringent regulations govern product placement in content aimed at children. Prioritize transparency and avoid manipulative tactics.
  • Appeal: Focus on products relevant to their interests and needs, like toys, games, or apparel. Use relatable characters and avoid overt salesmanship.
  • Parental Influence: Consider the role of parents in purchase decisions. Emphasize benefits beyond just fun, like educational value or encouraging healthy habits.
  • Social Media & Influencer Marketing: Leverage popular platforms and influencers to connect with teens in their natural online spaces.


  • Sophistication: Adults are generally more discerning, so ensure placements feel natural and avoid blatant advertising. Focus on showcasing product benefits and integration into the narrative.
  • Product Relevance: Target placements towards specific adult demographics based on their interests, lifestyles, and purchase behaviors.
  • Emotional Connection: Use storytelling and emotional triggers to create positive associations with the product and brand.
  • Multiple Touchpoints: Integrate product placement across various media channels for a cohesive brand experience.

Domestic vs. International Audiences:

  • Cultural Nuances: Research and respect cultural sensitivities regarding product types, portrayal, and advertising practices in different regions.
  • Regulations: Each country has varying regulations surrounding product placement. Comply with all relevant laws and ethical guidelines.
  • Localization: Adapt product features, messaging, and even aesthetics to resonate with local preferences and avoid cultural gaffes.
  • Partnerships: Consider partnering with local influencers, media outlets, or cultural figures to enhance authenticity and reach targeted audiences effectively.


  • Growth & Predictions: Product placement spending is steadily increasing, projected to reach $26.8 billion globally by 2025 (Statista, 2023).
  • Top Channels: Television remains the dominant platform, accounting for 71% of global spending in 2020 (PQ Media, 2020). However, spending on video games and online platforms is rapidly growing.
  • Regional Focus: The United States and China remain the top markets for product placement spending, followed by the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany (PQ Media, 2020).

Brand Recall:

  • Effectiveness: Studies show product placement can be as effective as traditional advertising in driving brand recall. A 2019 study by Nielsen found that product placement in movies increased brand recall by 21%.
  • Factors Influencing Recall: Prominence, integration with the storyline, and positive portrayal of the product all contribute to higher recall (Dichter & Associates, 2012).
  • Challenges: Measuring the direct impact of product placement on brand recall can be complex, as other marketing efforts may also contribute.

Consumer Perception:

  • Shifting Attitudes: While some consumers remain skeptical of product placement, research suggests attitudes are becoming more positive, particularly among younger generations (Ipsos Mori, 2020).
  • Key Concerns: Transparency and authenticity are crucial. Consumers dislike overt advertising and manipulative tactics (Dichter & Associates, 2012).
  • Impact on Purchase Decisions: Product placement can indirectly influence purchase decisions, especially when targeting children and teens (Federal Trade Commission, 2022).

Additional Points:

  • Data Fragmentation: Data on product placement effectiveness and consumer perception can be fragmented and vary depending on industry, methodology, and target audience.
  • Evolution of Measurement: As technologies like AR and CGI create more immersive placements, measuring their impact on consumer perception and behavior will become even more complex.
  • Ethical Considerations: Ethical concerns surrounding product placement, particularly towards children and vulnerable audiences, remain a critical issue.


Q: Does product placement impact consumer purchase decisions?

A: Studies show it increases brand recall and positively influences buying, especially among fans of the media property.

Q: How much does product placement typically cost?

A: Costs vary based on factors like screen time, how prominently placed, brand category and property popularity. Fees can range from $10,000 to $500,000+.

Q: Are there regulations on product placement disclosure?

A: The FCC requires on-screen disclosures during TV shows with paid placements, but not for films currently.

Q: Is product placement effective for smaller brands?

A: Placement in niche and social media influencer content can be affordable and deliver great ROI for upstarts.


As audience behaviours shift, brands must embrace innovative formats like product placement that connect in deeper, less disruptive ways. By organically integrating into culturally relevant entertainment properties that resonate with target demographics, companies can increase awareness, improve brand image, and drive real impact on sales.

However, authenticity is key – placements must enhance rather than distract from the content experience. With careful execution and monitoring, product placement delivers significant upsides at scale. It represents an evolution for marketers from interrupting audiences to truly engaging them.

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