“Chak de India” happens to be the most recent film that I saw after a long time. Surprisingly enough, apart from Shahrukh Khan’s charms and the movie’s well directed shots in hockey field, many brands stayed with me even after I came out of the theatre. Puma, Ultratech Cement and Mc Donald’s just happen to be a few of them.
The current clamour for advertising space has led brands to seek innovative strategies of making their products conspicuous. One of the more effective options has been to place the brands in the entertainment space. Product or brand placement is a form of advertising in which brand-name products, packages, signs and corporate names are intentionally placed in motion pictures and television programs. Placement can be in the form of verbal mentions in dialogue, actual use by a character, visual displays such as a corporate logo on a vehicle or billboard, brands used as set decoration, or even snatches of actual radio or television commercials.
Obviously, the concept is not completely unknown to the movie going audience. In fact it existed as early back as the 1970’s. In the super hit film ‘Bobby’, the famous yellow bike ‘Rajdoot Enfield’ was an important part of the story and became a rage with the nation’s youth. But the emergence of product placement as a full-fledged industry, is new. The product placement departments and the placement specialists scan the scripts from television and films to look for placement opportunities for products. Everybody who has seen Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Don’ also remembers the Tag Heuer watches, Motorola handsets, as well as Louise Phillipe outfits.
Often strategic placement of the brand has led to an increase in its sale as well. In the 1982 film, ‘Extra Terrestrial’, the appearance of the candy Reese’s Pieces, boosted the sales of the product by almost 65%. Reportedly, Ray Ban glasses experienced a 55% increase in sales following their use by Tom Cruise in ‘Risky Business’ and ‘Mission Impossible’. The fact that these brands are used by a character played by the celebrity in their normal course of life adds to its credibility. The environment for the brand is clutter free and devoid of any competition from any other rival brand and catches the consumers when they are in a receptive mood. Overall, the system is very cost effective for the promoters, as it costs less than what goes into airing an entire advertisement. It definitely has the potential to penetrate markets that are otherwise hard to reach.
But there is a flipside to it as well. Since the industry is still in its infancy and a perfect formula for the most effective method of captivating the industry has not been developed, it is seen that the products often compromise on the artistic integrity of the film. The trick is to blend the brand seamlessly into the script of the film. If that does not happen, then the films merely look like an advertisement vehicle used by marketers for promotion. The wanton endorsement of Coke in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Yaadein’ is one such example. Meanwhile, the increasing use of several brands in a single film is rather disadvantageous to the lesser known ones. There were about 40 brand names associated with ‘Spiderman-3’, but an average consumer would only remember the 10 most popular ones.
The concept of brand placement is poised to grow, both in terms of its enforcement and the context in which it is used. Apart from films and televisions, music videos and video games are now open to this idea. Although it is a risky affair, more and more and advertisers are likely to adopt this method of endorsement.