How is product placement used in video today?

As part of our history of promotional video throughout the last century, we arrived at the history of product placement. Product placement has been a favoured tool of marketers and directors alike since before sound was even in films. It featured in the background of silent movies on shop counters, and took off as a major source of funding for Hollywood blockbusters once E.T. got a hold of it.

If used well, product placement can be an extremely effective means of marketing, allowing viewers to fully enjoy video content while being subtly exposed to new products and services. If deployed clumsily, product placement can irrevocably destroy someone’s viewing experience and opinion of a piece of content as a whole. In an age where viewing time on Youtube among 18-49 year olds has shot up 74%, how is product placement used today?

One of the major challenges facing content hosts and creators online has long been that of funding. With 6 out of 10 people now preferring online video platforms to conventional television, the Internet long ago threw up a dilemma for those in marketing. Namely, how do content creators and advertisers generate revenue from content that is ostensibly ‘free’? It’s no secret, really.

Name-dropping and endorsements

If you regularly follow any major YouTube star’s antics, you’ll no doubt have noticed them name-dropping or even demonstrating certain products in their videos. Video game channels and cooking shows are obvious targets for marketing teams to approach, but more conventional vloggers and even off-beat channels are frequently asked to endorse products in their videos as well. This is also how many ‘famous’ Instagrammers meet their rent - they are often paid tens of thousands of pounds to simply mention a product in the captions for their photo and video posts.

The rise of alternative content has encouraged marketers to rethink product placement in extremely strange ways - just take a look at this Will It Blend? video below, which combines product placement for both the blender of choice and a new iPhone.

If you’d told the marketing team in the 80s that a live action demonstration of your product being physically blended would be effective product placement, you’d have been laughed out of the room. It demonstrates that product placement doesn’t even necessarily have to lend positive coverage to a product (or even keep the product intact on-screen) to be considered effective. This mirrors similar developments in the film industry, particularly when it comes to cars.

Targeted ads

Another popular, but increasingly fraught and aggressive method of exposing users to products during video content, is targeted ads. These are worked into on-screen pop-ups, video recommendations and even traditional ad segments during videos. Many viewers cannot stand these kinds of ads, but they’re also viewed as increasingly effective for driving certain kinds of content towards certain kinds of viewers. Next time, we’ll be taking a look at how exactly that works and how content creators and marketing teams can benefit or fall flat thanks to this kind of product placement (if we can even call it that).