Researchers from Indiana University and Emory University published new research in the INFORMS’ June issue of Marketing Science, which reveals the impact of product placement in television programming. The findings indicate that prominent product placement embedded in television programming does have a net positive impact on online conversations and web traffic for brands.

The study, “Measuring the Impact of Product Placement with Brand-Related Social Media Conversations and Website Traffic,” analyzed data on 2,806 product placements for 99 brands that aired in the fall 2015 television season. To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers used two measures of engagement that manifest as online behaviors: the volume of online word-of-mouth mentioning of the brand and the volume of traffic to the brand’s website.

They found that product placement can be associated with increased online engagement, and that prominent placements are related to larger increases in online conversations on social media and web traffic for the featured brand.

“Overall, our results support the notion that product placements can help marketers reach consumers who have become adept at avoiding traditional advertising exposure,” said the researchers. “Further, the research suggests that verbal product placements may be more prominent than visual ones because they require higher plot integration with the actor saying a brand’s name versus the brand appearing in the background.” 

The researchers concluded that verbal placements may be processed more deeply than visual ones.

“One thing that producers should be careful about is overt inclusion of brands into scenes or content,” said the researchers. “If the product placement does not fit and it interferes with the plot of the program, it could distract, irritate or spur a negative experience for the viewer.”

On the issue of whether a combination of product placement and traditional advertising is effective, the researchers found that product placement proximity to advertising during a program can enhance the prominence of placements. This highlights the importance of coordination between marketers, networks and television content creators.

Product placement, which is included in the Branded Entertainment Marketing category by global media research group PQ Media, is the fourth largest advertising and marketing silo at $57.14 billion in 2018. According to a PQ Media report in PPB magazine’s June issue, product placement rose at double-digit rates for the seventh consecutive year, driven by a strong cadre of blockbuster films with placements, and more innovative methods being used to integrate brands into television programs.