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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » Advertising, Television, Web and Film Are the Entertainment Now

Advertising, Television, Web and Film Are the Entertainment Now

As social media, the web and television become interlinked, advertising/shopping/retailing looks set to be the cement that holds it all together. This first published on Suite 101, 31 October 2011

Product Placement in TV and Movies Now Widespread - Captain USA (

Research studies, commentators and various net and commercial pundits are busy jumping on bandwagons as the advertising industry ensures its prosperity in all media. Advertising, love it or hate it, is going to get ever more intrusive as technology evolves.

Brand Loyalty

Since 2010 in the UK, it’s been legal to place products within both television shows and films. This goes way beyond mere sponsorship and focusses on simple messages: this hero drinks this particular beverage; that attractive girl is into those named shoes.

Now, with simple technology and high motivation, media and advertising are teaming up to retro-fit products into programmes and movies made long ago. That it questions artistic integrity, that it seeks to distort if not rewrite history is of no consequence. Product promotion is king.

This technological advance has come about partly through adoption of another technology device. Now it’s possible to record television programmes and start watching even before the recording is done, so all adverts can be skipped fast forward. Advertisers hate that.

If the ad is effectively placed within a scene, it must be watched. A can of Tresemme hairspray was imposed into a 2011 episode of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model after the programme was made. It looked as if it had been there all along.

The USA is well ahead of the UK in this. Product placement is an industry worth over two billion dollars a year. As many as 6000 brands may appearance in a single series. The danger is that a drama or crime programme may soon look like a supermarket documentary.

Questions and Issues

Few ask if there is an inherent right for advertisers (who fund programmes) to force viewers to note their products. Is product placement worse than a normal ad break or sponsorship announcement at the start? Indeed, should placement do away with ad breaks altogether?

In movies that have no commercial breaks (so far), will the enjoyment, the drama, the emotion be ruined by viewers unavoidably spotting/counting/namechecking products? Does it matter if they insert into an old classic/favourite, say The Godfather (1972), a shot of the name of the undertakers, or the makers of the guns they use?

Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011) is: ‘a documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement’. While deals are being struck to finance a movie, the movie is being made.

Spurlock made Supersize Me (2004), and in this one too, he seeks to poke fun in the hope of generating some consumer resistance. People may laugh, but that alone will not slow the rise of the towering edifice of advertising.

Personalised Targetting

The days of universal advertising hoardings or display cabinets in supermarkets that instantly speak directly to consumers via face-recognition technology linked to huge databases of preferences and shopping habits, are approaching rapidly.

Kraft Foods and Adidas are already using this technology in its first phase. If somebody glances at a hoarding within 20 feet, details of that person’s height, distance between the eyes, nose and hair lengths are transmitted to a database that calculates his/her age.

Instantly, the ad is changed to suit a person of that age and gender, in the hope that will prompt specific spending. Of course people shop for others and many object to this kind of manipulation, so they are using about 30% of the ads for entirely random products. Either way, truly, every journey is now a retailing opportunity for suppliers.

Multi-tasking, Multi-shopping

Consultancy Deloitte published an August 2011 survey that found half of British TV viewers simultaneously surfed the net. They were internet shopping. Fewer were emailing and social networking while watching. Most consumers seem happy, shopping having become such a part of their lives.

Deloitte found 13% plan to buy a tablet computer in the year ahead, the same as aim to buy a new HD TV; half of all women who surf say they are likely to shop online and 20% of the 18-24s ‘discovered and then purchased a new product or service after seeing it on TV’. So, TV and internet advertising works.

They concluded ‘the relationship between watching television and shopping online will get even closer in 2011’. That television, internet devices/mobile technology and joy of shopping will become inseparable, seems natural. It also knocks down the old business premise, that one sector like web adverts can only expand at the expense of traditional ads, like TV breaks.

All technology is an arm of advertising now. According to management consultancy McKinsey (August 2011), the internet alone made up 21% of GDP growth in mature economies since 2006. Advertising in general and retailing in particular is the giant element of that growth.

Go a step further, and the old fear that social media and television are mutually destructive competitors, has evaporated. They are complimentary. Social media is another weapon in the advertisers’ e-commerce armoury.

Laurence Green, writing in the Sunday Telegraph in August 2011, reckoned that it’ll take years before ‘Facebook accounts for 10% of the time spent watching television’. But as people do more of everything with their technology, it doesn’t have to be a straight race between the two media.

He quoted marketing academic Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow (2010): ‘prioritise reach, get noticed, use distinctive assets, build memory structures, be consistent yet fresh’. Good advice for all sectors of commerce, but particularly those swimming in digital waters.


  • Deloitte report, Increased sales of tablet computers drive shopping in advertising breaks. 22 August 2011. Web 31 October 2011.
  • McKinsey and Company, Internet Matters: The net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs and prosperity, May 2011. Web 31 October 2011.
  • Sunday Telegraph, Laurence Green, Social media and TV need not be enemies, 28 August 2011. Web 31 October 2011.

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