written by
Stephan Schwarz
Stephan Schwarz

Why product placement works for brands

Why product placement works for brands

Germany was a relative latecomer to the world of product placement in 2010. However, with wide reach and authentic integration, marketers are recognising that it is one of the most organic ways to grab consumer attention. As opportunities for product placement in Germany expand we look at why brands should be taking notice.

Product placement, in a nutshell

Put simply, product placement is defined as “the visual, textual and verbal integration of a product, service or brand into editorial content for advertising purposes.”

German media law stipulates several rules around product placement. Editorial interests are sovereign and should determine the depth and implementation of product integration. The integration of a product must also be authentic and have an editorial reason behind it. Broadcasters are allowed to place products within films (both cinema and TV), series, sport shows, entertainment shows and likely from the end of 2020 also magazine shows, but not in children’s shows, documentaries, information or news shows.

There are substantial opportunities for brands to integrate product placement into their marketing plan, and longstanding placement partnerships such as Opel and Germany’s Next Topmodel (GNTM) are testament to its popularity.

So what benefits does product placement offer for marketers?

It’s authentic and enhances the viewer experience

In 2019 Sat.1 decided to refresh their Promi Big Brother (Celebrity Big Brother) concept. Housemates would be camping, earning their own money and buying their own food from the “smallest PENNY-Markt in the world”. This was the first time that Promi Big Brother had a consistent product placement throughout its entire 14-day series. The placement was a huge success and “the smallest PENNY Markt in the world” became the cult star of the series. With housemates hurrying to choose their food in the 12 square metres of supermarket space, it successfully refreshed the existing format. It was authentic, fun and PENNY-Markt successfully enhanced the viewer experience. This placement won a “bronze nail” at the Art Directors Club 2020 (ADC) awards.

Smallest PENNY-Market in the world
Smallest PENNY-Markt in the world

No closer integration possible

People pay attention to their favourite TV shows. By placing products within these shows, brands can secure consumer attention without distracting from the entertainment. Viewers can't click off or block the placement and usually don't fast forward product placements. This makes product placement an extremely useful way to reach consumers.

Product placement builds long-term brand awareness

Research shows that consumer recall increases as the result of a product placement. Coca-Cola is perhaps the best example here. The drinks company has one of the most visible brands on TV and has placed its products on the big screen for over 100 years. The Coca-Cola brand can be found in everything from 1978’s Superman, 1982’s ET to 2017’s The Voice of Germany. With the brand’s longstanding position at the centre of popular culture, it is hard to argue that product placement efforts haven't contributed significantly to this.

It suits almost every consumer product type

While it is certainly easier to place low involvement, material product types (cars and coffee, for example) than immaterial products (such as apps) within shows, with the latter example it just means that a little creativity is required. Prizes as part of a competition are a great way to integrate trips and destinations into TV shows. Candidate challenges in shows like GNTM can be used to showcase experiential activities such as a particular fitness concept.

Even if the product is easy to place, working out how to place it within a specific format might not be so straightforward. Whereas hair and beauty brands have a very direct connection with shows like GNTM, integrating a product such as coffee with The Voice of Germany is not so simple. However the Melitta Coffee Bar in The Voice of Germany where talents can enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee before their blind auditions on the stage achieved exactly this. A creative yet authentic integration.

Melitta Coffee Bar
Melitta Coffee Bar in The Voice of Germany
Germany's Next Topmodel
Sephora in Germany's Next Topmodel (GNTM)

Image transfer from format to product

Top rated shows like GNTM and The Masked Singer are strong brands in themselves and are widely associated with top stars, glamour, fun and entertainment. Through product placement brands can successfully benefit from their proximity to these shows. In 2019, for example, ProSieben brought The Masked Singer for the first time to Germany and car manufacturer SEAT was looking to strengthen its brand profile in connection with music. SEAT successfully integrated their cars into the secrecy concept behind The Masked Singer, benefitting both from the show’s large reach but also its strong musical association. The traditional SEAT brand also undoubtedly profited from the show’s novelty factor.

The Masked Singer
SEAT in The Masked Singer

Product placement - The future of TV advertising?

In 2019 the SevenOne AdFactory broke new ground by combining an innovative product placement for Bahlsen Pick-up cookies in the comedy series Jerks with a regular TV spot in the commercial break. As part of the plot of Jerks, one of the characters shows a TV spot on his smartphone that Jerks actor Fahri Yardim shot for Pick-up in 2006. This scene leads almost seamlessly into the regular commercial break which features the new Pick-up spot with Yardim and his Jerks partner Christian Ulmen. This initiative is considered the first of its kind on German television and has been recognised by both jury and audience at this year’s Spotlight Festival and was awarded a “bronze nail” at the ADC 2020.

Bahlsen Pick-up in Jerks

As platforms and content increase, so are advertising opportunities for brands. In this environment the challenge for advertisers is to avoid customers feeling advertising fatigue. Product placement works in this day and age as consumers don’t feel targeted by it. It builds effectively on a wider campaign and, as long as products are integrated in an authentic way, can even enhance the TV show. As the law in Germany changes to allow placements in more formats and potentially greater audience targeting becomes a reality, the future is exciting for product placement.