House of cards netflix cover

From 007 to House of Cards, Product Placement Feeling Growing Pains

TV is dead. TV is experiencing a renaissance. Nobody goes to the movies anymore. New releases are breaking box office records. Digital will kill product placement. Product placement is everywhere in digital.

Just when the death knell is sounded for traditional mediums, platforms and advertising tools, things get interesting. While product placement seems to be experiencing some growing pains, sometimes still awkwardly trying to integrate products into content, it seems brands are exploring new methods and are adapting to shifts in programming tastes.

Commentators have noted the sometimes forced use of products in television and film. Well while products are moving into digital entertainment, such as the hit Netflix series House of Cards, that awkward moment of making a product work in the storytelling is sometimes there in this new medium as well.

While the show has made huge headlines this week for the apparently accidental release of Season 3, not officially slated until the end of the month, the show has also gotten attention for its ubiquitous product placements. From smartphones throughout the show to Pizza Hut runs and from Francis Underwood’s Cadillac to the integration of Canon’s EOS1 camera and photo printers in the love affair of his wife Claire and a photographer boyfriend – product placement plays a big role in the show.

This somewhat old school approach in a new medium is helping fund productions of new series on content providers like Netflix. But Variety reported last week that a growing number of big brands are moving away from some of their traditional product placements. 

In Brian Steinberg’s piece, TV’s Old Product-Placement Era Could Be Nearing Its End,he ciites Coca-Cola’s move to pull its cups from American Idol. Steinberg suggests brands are looking to move away from traditional models to explore new avenues of product placement. Steinberg mentions Walmart’s sponsorship of both NBC’s live productions of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.

Working Walmart into the script of Peter Pan would have been a disaster, of course. In this case, Walmart created spots with Melissa Joan Hart and her real life family that thematically tied back to Peter Pan, and were perfectly timed to follow specific scenes in the production.

Will product placement go away from television and film? It’s not likely.

As Kevin Downey writes in Product Placement V2.0 is Hot Brand Strategy for TVNewsCheck, products as characters within the stories is a big trend with brands and studios. Angela Courtin, CMO at Relativity Media, told Downey that Relativity is not only a film and TV studio, but it’s also “a branded-entertainment company. That allows brands to sit at the table and collaborate on creating content that fits their marketing objective.”

One long-standing example of products playing a significant role in films and almost becoming characters in their own right, is the placement of cars in James Bond films. As brandchannel’s Mark Miller reports, “One of the most coveted placements for any Bond film is in the automotive category…”  And Jaguar Land Rover has just announced that three of their vehicles will be featured in SPECTRE, the 24th installment in the 007 films, now in production.

Dramatic car chase scenes are fun and iconic examples of product placement that don’t seem like they’ll be going away anytime soon. But brands are exploring other means of creating product storytelling as well.

Gap and directors “The Daniels” are collaborating on an Instagram “micro-series” for the brand. Twelve 15-second “films” feature the search for love and the perfect pair of jeans. Starring Jenny Slate, Paul Dano and Gap jeans, one will be released each week this spring.

Gap reports it will also release the series on dating websites and apps. They add, “The ‘Micro-Series’ series is one of the first campaigns to take advantage of Instagram’s new video auto-replay looping capabilities.”

Is the future of brandchannel’s beloved Brandcameo Product Placement Award in danger? It doesn’t look that way. Brands and their advertising tactics are evolving, and brands such as Gap have taken on shaping their own stories. But it does seem that we’ll be seeing brands race to ride with Bond and be part of hit shows – whether on TV or from digital content providers  –  for some time to come.