Product Placement: definition, types, and examples

What is the definition of product placement? It is a much more expensive marketing technique than normal advertising since it involves placing the products to be advertised in privileged and highly visible places, but for this reason, has powerful effectiveness, much more than classic television commercials and digital advertising, since it is capable of decisively influencing the purchasing behavior of the public.

In this article, I will explain the different types of product placement, the rules that regulate their functioning, and the importance of this channel in a marketing strategy.

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Meaning of product placement

Product placement, or indirect advertising or embedded marketing, is a form of marketing that consists in making a product or brand appear or refer in a natural way within an autonomous and already established narrative structure (film, television program, video, social network, blog, video game, etc.), therefore in contexts that are not exactly advertising.

Obviously, all this takes place in exchange for monetary or extra-monetary compensation (products or services provided free of charge) by the company in question. Consequently, from this definition of product placement, it is clear that the placement of products or brands that occurs for purely artistic purposes does not fall into this type of advertising.

This type of advertising is also called Pull marketing, as it increases Brand Awareness, strength, and demand for the product. Undoubtedly, product placement has a high emotional force resulting from the narrative context in which the user is absorbed, and the sponsorship takes place.

There is also reverse product placement, i.e., cases in which a non-existent product or brand is created to complement and enrich an already famous television, film, or narrative context. In this case, real products or brands are born and put on sale as a result of their fictitious existence in these successful narrative scenarios. This is the case with the Simpsons Duff beer.

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Types of product placement

Different types of product placement are based on the role that the advertised element assumes within the narrative. The ideal would be to alternate or combine these types, even if the fundamental aspect still remains the integration of the brand into the plot in order to be able to generate the right appeal to the viewer. In this way, it is possible to avoid the sense of rejection generally caused by traditional advertising.

Screen placement

This is the visual product placement: the brand is positioned in the foreground, making it perfectly visible to the eye of the spectators, or, on the contrary, it will be left in the background, and the shots will, however, be increased so as not to reduce its effectiveness. Often the combination of the two forms can occur. Here is an example of Apple product placement.

product placement via screen

Placement scripts

The script placement is undoubtedly extremely incisive as the protagonist explicitly mentions the product in question, inserting it into the narration. Therefore, the placement of the product takes place through a type of indirect verbal advertising.

Script placement manages to capture the viewer’s attention and, if used correctly, can lead to great results. This form of indirect advertising is also used less frequently because it is more difficult to carry out without the sponsorship appearing as a stretch.

manolo blahnik placement

Plot placement

It corresponds to integrated product placement, i.e., the integration of the two previous types. It is the most powerful and effective typology as the product plays a primary role within the narration, becoming, in some cases, even the main protagonist, with the screenplay being built around it.

Therefore, there must be a close collaboration from the outset between the brand being promoted and whoever is in charge of writing the script or the advertising plot. The cost for plot placement is obviously much higher, and the productions can accept this type of agreement to obtain an economic advantage.

plot placement example

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Product placement on social media

With the digital evolution and the increasingly overbearing affirmation of social media, digital product placement has begun to no longer concern only the world of television and cinema. Undoubtedly, advertising your brand on social networks has a lower cost, and even small companies have the opportunity to implement product placement campaigns.

social media placement

Just think of the possibilities offered by Facebook or Instagram, where thousands of companies around the world choose to have their products advertised by Influencers who publish photos or stories in which they are present, in a pleasant way and without being heralded, despite the legislation since the end of 2017 imposing the obligation to report (usually with a hashtag) whenever a brand or product is sponsored on Instagram for make business relationships transparent.

Also, Youtube is increasingly used in product placement marketing strategies throughYoutubers. There are several methods of indirect advertising on the platform:

  • Video haul: video showing the latest purchases made, as if you were interacting with a friend. The names of the sponsored brands are listed in the video description.
  • Review: the YouTuber talks about a product purchased by reviewing it positively and listing its qualities.
  • Challenge: increasingly common challenges in which products of a sponsored brand are used.
  • Background: brands and trademarks that appear in the background of the video, for example, a poster stuck in the room of a YouTuber who publishes a video

Undoubtedly, thanks to social media, product placement is increasingly popular. The important thing is to monitor the progress of the results obtained but, above all, to choose the right representative of the product to be sponsored, who preferably really appreciates the brand that is sponsoring, thus making indirect advertising even more natural and consequently effective.

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Examples of product placement

Here are some examples and success stories of product placement advertising taken from some films.

FedEx in Cast Away

An emblematic case of product placement in film is Cast Away: the protagonist Tom Hanks plays an engineer of the FedEx company (brand advertised). Following a plane crash, the protagonist is shipwrecked on a desert island and survives thanks to the FedEx packages shipwrecked with him, which continue to be an integral part of the film.

fedex cast away

In particular, on one of those packages, he will draw two angel wings; at the end of the film, having returned to civilization, the package will be delivered to the recipient. Therefore, the FedEx brand is, in all respects, one of the protagonists of the film.

Reese’s candy in ET

In Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film, Reese’s Candy appears. The owner of the company signed a 1 million dollar deal for the advertising campaign linked to the film: The product appears in one of the most exciting scenes, and, thanks to this advertising collaboration, the company has increased its sales by 300%. It is always the emotional element that binds a brand present in a film to future buyers.

reeses candy in film

Nike in Back to the Future

The director of the film Robert Zemeckis underlined that he had often adopted product placement in Back to the Future, declaring that he wanted to use different brands in his saga to make the future represented as realistic as possible.

showing of nike shoe in movie

As a result, the products are particularly prominent in the films. In particular, Nike has specially created a futuristic model called Air Mag, which was so successful that it was sold at an auction for $104,000.

Product placement and marketing

What can be the objectives of product placement for a company?

  • Increased visibility of a product or brand with a consequent increase in Brand Awareness: through product placement, the viewer cannot choose whether or not to be subjected to indirect sponsorship; it is a type of advertising that the user cannot escape.
  • Improvement of corporate brand identity: seeing a product or brand in certain contexts helps the viewer to imagine and associate values, messages, lifestyles, and celebrities with the brand.
  • Increased brand recall, i.e., the percentage of consumers who are part of a certain target that mentally links a product or brand, through a relevant clue, to a product category or a need.

In conclusion, it can be said without a doubt that product placement, if used correctly, can lead to surprising results, also because it is a type of advertising that allows you to give a brand continuous visibility over time and in different countries at the same time. Furthermore, the target’s attention span towards this tool exceeds that of traditional advertising. 

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