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The art of product placements in TV shows

Brands are increasingly making in-roads into fiction programmes in a bid to be noticed and considered by viewers. BestMediaInfo spoke to media agencies, brand managers and channel heads to understand the working of it all

Sarmistha Neogy | Mumbai | January 19, 2015


In-film product placements have been one of the popular brand marketing strategies for quite some time. But what has gained prominence lately is the rise of brand integration in both fiction and non-fiction formats on television. In ‘Bigg Boss 8’, Colors signed up for integrations with brands like Snapdeal.com, Cardekho.com, Maruti, Garnier and Urzza. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ (KBC 8) on Sony also had branded questions from Snapdeal and other placements inside the programme from Amazon.

Similarly, brands are now opting for seamless integrations in tele-serials. For instance, popular serials on Star Plus like ‘Veera’, ‘Nisha Aur Uske Cousins’, ‘Saath Nibhaana Sathiya’ and ‘Ye Hain Mohabattein’ have promoted brands like Quikr and Amazon in their content.

Godrej has recently launched eight new products under its Masterbrand campaign 2.0, and all these products were integrated in one episode of a show on Zee Tamil and Zee Kanada. This is the first time in India that multiple products have been integrated in a single episode.  ‘Uyir Mei’ in Zee Tamil and ‘Parvati Parmeshwar’ in Zee Kanada were dedicated for these Godrej integrations. Shireesh Joshi, Head, Strategic Marketing, Godrej Group, informs that the company plans to do more of these integrations across a variety of channels.

 Shireesh Joshi Shireesh Joshi

“The reason we chose to use all the eight products in one single episode is because we wanted to create greater impact and consistency, which one product wouldn’t have helped. The TG for the serials which we have chosen is not only women, because we understand that when a family decides to purchase something, it is actually a joint decision. So, through these integrations, our aim is to target the family as a whole,” Joshi explained.

Sharing the content strategy, Kiran Appachu, Senior Manager, Marketing, Zee Kanada, said, “In our serial ‘Parvati Parmeshwar’, we tweaked the story plot to add the different Godrej products. It is a popular sitcom with good ratings and runs at a prime, 10.30 PM. We have done product integrations before as well, but now there are more brands which are adapting to this marketing strategy, rather than the plain vanilla marketing.”

The products launched in the Masterbrand 2.0 campaign are U-sonic Washing Machine, Godrej Interio Video-door phone, Godrej Interio Kreation Wardrobe, Electronic hydraulic Karbon Bed, Good Knight Fast Card, Yummiez – Mumbai Vada, Godrej Expert rich crème hair colour and Godrej Properties. To mark these new launches, eight new TVCs, conceptualised by JWT, were also released in November 2014, featuring Sam and Meera, who were also part of the previous Masterbrand campaign.

Asked which is more effective – plain advertisement or product integrations, Joshi said, “Both are non-substitutable. An advertisement ensures broad-base awareness, which no serial or movie integration will ever be able to achieve, except during a few select cricket matches. On the other hand, if the brand is looking to add richness and depth and also higher conversation rate, then product integration is the appropriate marketing method.”

How does it work?

BestMediaInfo spoke to media agencies; brand managers and channel heads to understand how brand integrations in serials work and who stands to benefit from them.

Ameya Sule Ameya Sule

Ameya Sule, Senior Business Director, GroupM ESP, informs that the decision of how the product needs to be placed in the serial lies with the brand. “Whether the brand message will be subtle or in-your-face depends on the objective of the brand.  For example, if the brand is new, its aim will be to get more eyeballs and be noticed, so the product placement can be quite overt, which, to a viewer, may look as intrusive. So, product placement happens according to the creative brief given by the client,” he explained.

According to Sule, ads and integrations have different purposes – for ads it is the frequency which matters, the bigger it is, the better. But, if the brand has a specific objective, then a 30-second ad won’t do justice to it. “If you ask me which is better, I would say, both should complement each other,” he added.

Lavina Kairamkonda Lavina Kairamkonda

Lavina Kairamkonda, Client Servicing Executive, Forecast Advertising, believes that product integrations work well for a country like ours; because we get easily influenced by people around us and more so if a celebrity is doing it. “Product placement inside a serial is done after looking into many factors, first the TRP of the serial, then the product has to seamlessly fit into the story line and finally, the TG of the serial will have to match the TG of the brand,” she said.

About the Godrej integration, Pranesh Misra, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide, says that integrating eight products in one serial might look as a force fit and people might stop watching it because they would wonder if they are watching an entertainment channel or an advertisement. “The product integration in movies comes in more naturally, than in serials, which sometimes looks more on-the-face advertising. However, in general, the role of product integration in serials or movies is more for creating brand awareness than the just a reminder,” he stated.

Saurabh Parmar Saurabh Parmar

According to Saurabh Parmar, Founder & CEO, Brandlogist, advertising is increasingly becoming gimmicky and this 'innovation' of using eight products is just another example. “Product placement definitely works, but the best product placement should blend in with the storyline and the audience should never feel ‘being sold to’,” he said.

Who Benefits?

Simran Hoon Simran Hoon

How difficult is it to integrate products inside the storyline without being direct or too intrusive? Simran Hoon, National Sales Head, Colors, says that it depends largely on the product or service you want to integrate into the storyline and also how the show resonates with the target audience. She elaborated, “Because of the continued popularity of ‘Bigg Boss’, it has opened additional revenue streams for Colors. The business of brand integrations and product placement has evolved over the years. It is important for a brand to weave its communication in line with the content, without being too nosy or in-your-face. Being direct can drive away the viewer, not only from the product, but also the entire show. Once the importance of subtle integration of a product in a storyline is understood by the brand in question, half the battle is won.”

She further added, “The part of integrating the product in the show in a creative manner largely then depends on the marketing teams and creative agencies working in tandem with the production team of the show in question. ‘Bigg Boss’, for example, has managed to position itself in a space where the show lends itself for product and brand placement, while having a very flexible storyline. This allows the show to integrate interesting brands like Snapdeal.com, Cardekho.com, Maruti, Garnier, Urzza to be successfully integrated into the show, either through a task, a prop, or even as a prize/reward for a task performed well.”

According to Hoon, product integration is always more beneficial to a brand over a normal product advertisement. This is so because while a normal product advertisement guarantees visibility to the brand, an integration opportunity allows the brand to gain higher visibility, promises a captive audience and highlights the different aspects of the brand in a more controlled manner.

“A product placement makes way for higher chances of viewership and, in effect, higher brand recall, giving obvious benefits for the advertiser. Further, product integration by way of programming allows broadcasters to increase advertising revenues depending on the exposure time the brand gets in a product placement making it a win-win situation for both parties,” Hoon explained.

Ajay Bhalwankar, Chief Creative Director, Sony Entertainment Television, says that Sony stays away from product integrations in fiction shows. “We have done integrations in non-fiction properties like KBC. Our attempt is always to make it judicious, so that it doesn’t look that we are deviating from the context and just placing the product. For this reason, we avoid integrations in our fiction shows,” he said.

Parmar, on the other hand, is of the opinion that these integrations, apart from probably reducing media costs because of the bulk buy, hardly do anything for the viewers; they are rather intrusive.

While these integrations might seem like interference to the viewers, it is a growing trend and both channels and brands are riding happily on it.


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