The New Era of Product Placement: Advertiser-Created Content

It’s becoming more and more difficult to tell if we are watching ads. There are certain types of “hidden” advertisements that we are all used to. You can’t watch a network tv show these days without seeing a Microsoft Surface product placement, for example. This may be why product placement is no longer as successful as it used to be. Back in the day, product placement could be a game changer. Take Reese’s Pieces in the classic film ET. It resulted in a 65% increase in sales within two weeks of the movie release. These types of results are just no longer possible with traditional advertising tactics.

The latest type of “hidden” advertising is advertiser-created content. The goal: create engaging, original content that viewers want to share. However, what we’ve noticed with this new trend is that it’s a fine line between having enough brand placement so that you get a bang for your buck, but not so much that you’re coming off as trying too hard to the viewer. We were discussing this trend and the different companies we’d seen using it and our biggest question was: how successful are these “ads”? Sometime the success that results is not even for the intended company.  Case in point: the First Kiss video that went viral a few weeks back. That video was actually an ad for a clothing company’s spring line but probably resulted in very few clothes sold, but the background song reaching No. 9 on Billboards Top 100.  So we decided to do a case study on some of the most recent “hidden” ads we’d seen and try to determine whether or not they were succesful. We based the success on cost, number of views, and brand recognition. And this is just the beginning. More and more advertisers, including General Motors, Sony, and Intel, are investing content-based video entertainment with spending up 43%.

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The 4 to 9ers

Views: 5 million
A series of short, funny, and a little bit brash videos. The show’s cast is a group of teenagers working after school jobs at a mall, the main character being an employee of Subway. Subway branding is everywhere, but the sells are always soft and shrouded in cheeky, teenage humor making the show quite an enjoyable watch. As a short web series it is a huge success. It is Hulu’s most popular short-form comedy series.

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As an ad it is also a huge success.  Subway’s goal was to reach a younger audience, and they have done just that, with teen traffic being up 19%.  It is even estimated that the series is worth $500 million+ in media value.  Subway knocked it out of the park with a great balance of brand recognition and truly entertaining media that you want to watch and share.

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First Kiss

Cost: about $1,300
Views: 74 million
Pretty much everyone has seen this video by now. It has had 74 million views on Youtube, 41 million of which occurred in 3 days. It is a short, black and white video of 20 strangers kissing for the first time.  I smiled when watching it because of the genuine awkwardness and human emotion. This was kind of ruined when I learned that those people were not strangers, but models and actors, and that this was an ad campaign for the clothing company, Wren. That aside it is a great video to watch if you haven’t seen it already. Was this video successful as an advertisement? No way (Wren’s tweet about the video only got 450 retweets). They also made the mistake of not making it easy to share the video directly from their website. As a result the video was shared through Youtube, losing potential for new web traffic. When I told the Hoodzpah team that it was actually an ad, no one believed me. The only way that I knew it was an ad was because of the title Wren at the beginning and the owner of Wren eventually tweeting about it. Did it result in increased sales for Wren? Probably not, seeing as most people never knew it was even created by Wren. Though before I knew it was an ad, I did find myself thinking that the strangers were wearing quite cute clothes.

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The person who benefitted the most was Soko, the artist of the background song, “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow”. She sold 1 million songs in one day. This is amazing when you learn that the song originally released in 2013 and only sold around 10,000 copies in the first couple months. Seeing as it only cost them $1,300 to make, you can’t really say it was a failure, but perhaps they could be a bit more ascertive with the branding in the future to get optimal return on investment. There’s subtlety and then there’s just plain getting overlooked.

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Farmed and Dangerous

Cost: Over $1 million
This comedy series of videos pokes fun at today’s farming industry. It comes on the heels of the huge success of their animated short, “Scarecrow.” After the Chipotle logo being featured on the video’s branding on the hulu page, there is only one utterance of “Chipotle” in the entire 20 minutes of the first episode.

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The goal of this series was to not advertise Chipotle specifically but to bring up the issues associated with industrial farming and to provide really entertaining content. Through informing their viewers the hope is that more people will value organic and naturally raised food. That being the goal, it is successful because the series is reaching more people than an informative documentary would. Cause don’t we all love to learn while laughing. I know next time I am looking for something to watch I will be finishing up the rest of the series.

To conclude, if you are going to try and successfully make some “hidden” ads for your brand just make sure people know your brand is associated with the videos without shoving it down the viewers’ throats.  That, and make something great that people want to watch and share… no big deal.

Sources:

A Kiss is Just a Kiss Unless It’s an Ad for a Clothing Company
Dividends: How Sweet It is
“The 4 to 9ers”
‘First Kiss’ Viral Video
‘First Kiss’ Video Sends Soko to No. 1
Lights, Camera, Advertisements

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