The flurry of recent movies bombarding the audiences with products placements as well as the follow-up cross-selling TV advertisements have caused me to wonder how the audiences react to these and their effectiveness as a communication medium for brands.

[Note : What exactly is product placement, you ask ? Product placement is a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies or television shows. In most cases, product placement in films and TV shows is done during the launch of a new product/ service or a new variant of an existing product/ service. ]

Why do the different parties do it? Film producers are often blamed to be looking for product placements to meet the budget requirements of their films but often they also do it for film and character enhancement. That said, the advantages for the product companies are numerous as well; some reasons include:

  • Getting (direct or indirect) endorsements from  big stars at a fraction of the costs
  • Clutter-free environment – the product gets sole attention or is one of the brands amongst a handful as opposed to on television where there are countless ads for the viewers
  • Not subject to surfing, zipping or muting. It has become so easy to block out traditional commercials, especially thanks to the DVR players (like TataSky+ and TiVo). With product placement, the ads become the content, and they can’t be skipped.
  • While films transcend geography, class and cultural barriers, they can also be very target specific and the promotions catch the audience in a receptive mood. It also allows for opportunities for cross-promotions.

Consider the results of some unintentional product placement situations :

One, the recent hit song “Munni…” in the movie ‘Dabangg’. Apparently the song writers thought it cool and quirky to have ‘Zandu Balm’ as a part of the lyrics of the song, but… the result was a quadrupling of the sales of the product itself. Although the makers of Zandu Balm filed a lawsuit against the film producers (which was allegedly to gain more and more mileage out of the popularity of the song and film), eventually the actress performing the song was made the brand ambassador for Zandu Balm!!! This was no case of intentional product placement – but it did the trick nonetheless…

And an older example. In 1998, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ showed Shah Rukh Khan sporting Tommy Hilfiger apparel throughout the film. During the making of the film, the stylist just happened to like the brightly coloured t-shirts by Tommy Hilfiger and chose to dress the lead actor in them. Fake Tommy Hilfiger T-shirts flooded fashion streets after the movie’s release, much before the brand itself came to India. When the brand finally launched in India in 2004, Tommy Hilfiger confessed he was surprised by the Indian market’s familiarity with the brand — he credited Shah Rukh Khan for having inadvertently done him a service, by wearing Tommy t-shirts in the film. Again, not a case of intentional product placement, but one that did wonders for the brand.


Roshni Jhaveri