Has Product Placement Reached Saturation?

With the growth in DVR usage and commercial skipping, marketers and advertisers have increasingly turned to alternatives to the 30-second spot, with product placement being a common option. Now Nielsen is reporting that product placement dropped a cumulative 15% in the first half of the year while showing a distinct shift – broadcast network placements were up 12%, but cable placements were down 20%.

I found the report interesting reading just from the data on the numbers of actual product placements. I was surprised by just how many placements there are. For example, in the first half of 2008 American Idol alone had 4,636 product placements, followed by Biggest Loser with 4,364. Coca-Cola was the top brand, with 2,990 placements. The market was bombarded with 204,919 product placements in just the first half of 2008. So if you thought there were a lot of products slipped into your shows, you’re right.

Not surprisingly, reality programing has the most product placements as its easier to work products in than it is in a scripted show. But with the deluge of reality shows clogging up the airwaves, there may be too many programs to go around. Audiences can only take so much, and with more shows on the air advertisers may not get as much of a concentration of viewers.

Personally I abhor most reality shows and do everything I can not to watch them. I guess I few shows I watch, like Iron Chef America, technically fall into the category though. But even avoiding the big reality shows, I’ve noticed a growing amount of product placement. One of the shows I enjoyed last season, The Big Bang Theory, had a lot of product placement worked into the program. Characters made very obvious use of Dell laptops, and one character works at The Cheesecake Factory, as is mentioned repeatedly. This season of Eureka is partly sponsored by Degree antiperspirant, which includes fairly intrusive, annoying product placement in the program itself. It is so clumsily handled that it’d be better if the characters just stopped and pitched the product for 30 seconds. It is annoying enough to make me want to never use the product.

I wonder if the increasing ‘in your face’ aspect of product placements is a symptom of the same saturation effect. It reminds me very much of web-based advertising, and how ads became increasingly aggressive with pop-ups, pop-unders, sound, animation, etc. Desperately trying to attract consumers, while in reality it was increasingly driving them away. Unfortunately I don’t expect an ad-blocker for product placements any time soon.

Spotted through Silicon Valley Insider.

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  • Tim

    My wife is in marketing and she usually points out the product placements when we’re watching something. Ehh, as long as it’s not to obnoxious, I don’t feel compelled to go “I HAVE TO GET THAT THING NOW!” when I see them.

    P.S. I love The Cheesecake Factory.