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Product Placement in Reality Television: An Investigation of Audience Identification. and Program Credibility. Claire Sherman.

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University of Adelaide Business School Product Placement in Reality Television: An Investigation of Audience Identification and Program Credibility Claire Sherman January 2010 Thesis submitted to the University
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University of Adelaide Business School Product Placement in Reality Television: An Investigation of Audience Identification and Program Credibility Claire Sherman January 2010 Thesis submitted to the University of Adelaide Business School in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2010. Chapter 1 : Introduction to the Study 1.1 Introduction As today s consumers become exposed to increased levels of advertising clutter (Elliott and Speck 1998), marketers have looked to other means to get their message across. Product placement has become increasingly popular and even rivalling traditional advertising. In the first quarter of 2009 an average of 10 minutes and 35 seconds per hour of US prime time network TV was devoted to in-program brand appearances compared to 13 minutes and 53 seconds for traditional advertising (TNS Media 2009). The growing appreciation for this promotional tool within industry warrants further research, receiving limited attention within the marketing literature until the last decade (Balasubramanian, Karrh, and Patwardhan 2006). However, before establishing the research context for this study, an overview of the benefits, acceptability and ethicality of this controversial technique provides an understanding of its place within modern marketing communications. 1.2 Potential Benefits of Product Placement Product placement has been labelled a form of advertising, yet it has several advantages over traditional advertising and other forms of promotion, which account for its recent growth (TV placements hit US$104.5 million in Aust for 2005; (PQ Media 2006)). Studies of television and cinema advertising have cast doubt on the amount of attention given to traditional adverts (Dunnett and Hoek 1996; Elliott and Speck 1998). Although the exact figures are contentious, a range of between 50-70% of households with personal video recorders (i.e. Foxtel IQ (Aust) or TiVo) have been purported to skip ads (Anderson 2008). Furthermore, multitasking, especially among younger consumers, is taking consumer attention away from advertising. Distraction, zipping and zapping, tasking and avoidance are all problems associated with 1 traditional advertising but virtually eliminated when using product placement. Its ability to cut through clutter is cited by industry as one of the main reasons for its use (Interview 2003). Product placement combines features of both advertising and publicity to create a unique advantage. It is similar to advertising in that it sets a context for the product or brand, positioning it purposefully. It is similar to publicity in that it is not necessarily perceived as advertiser biased (Balasubramanian 1994; Karrh 1998). In particular, consumers may not realise at the time of judgement or purchase that they have been given information via an advertiser-funded message (Shapiro, Macinnis, and Heckler 1997). Although, this advantage may be diminished if legislation enforces the explicit reporting of product placement as is now being considered within the European Union (European Parliament 2007). In advertising, the product is the central focus or reason for creating what people may perceive as a selling device. Product placement, on the other-hand, has the focus of a storyline and characters and its vehicle is intended to entertain people. This difference in focus may give rise to a more positive processing of the product message due, perhaps, to mood and involvement and may induce different processing of the message. Product placement is also set within an extended setting where viewers can get a clearer picture of the context in which the product is found. Consumption constellations are able to be formed as the setting of a movie or television show groups brands which help to create an entire image or enable a rub-off effect from one brand to another (Solomon and Englis 1994). Not only is there the ability to transfer meaning from character to brand but also from brand to brand which may facilitate a stronger image transfer. Also, as viewers become involved with the program, their sense that it is real may develop, and the program can act much like a real-life reference (Solomon and Englis 1994). 2 1.3 Acceptability and Ethicality of Product Placement Although there may be many drivers for marketing practitioners to use product placements, the practice has been criticised for being unethical and a disruption to viewers enjoyment of the program (Gupta, Balasubramanian, and Klassen 2000). Consequently, much of the initial research on product placement has focused on its ethics or acceptability (d'astous and Seguin 1999; Gould and Gupta 1997). Largely, researchers have found that attitudes towards product placements are positive, particularly where the brand contributes to the verisimilitude of the program or movie (DeLorme and Reid 1999; Gould and Gupta 1997; Gould, Gupta, and Grabner-Krauter 2000; Stern and Russell 2004). Also, individual differences have been found to moderate this acceptance, with greater acceptance from those who are younger, more brand conscious, frequent movie-goers and have a general liking for adverts. Such findings suggest that product placement may have become normalised. In particular, younger viewers may not know of any other media environment and those who have been more frequently exposed to placements may have become desensitised. Even so, this acceptance lessens when the product is ethically charged, such as cigarettes, alcohol, guns and to a lesser extent fatty foods (Gould and Gupta 1997; Gupta et al. 2000), mirroring ethical concerns surrounding traditional advertising (Waller, Fam, and Erdogan 2005). Lesser acceptance of these types of products is not unexpected and reflects a focus on the potential harm that may be caused by consuming them and the more highly regulated promotion used to reduce potential harm. Indeed, regulators have responded to these concerns, where regulations and laws such as the Tobacco Advertising Act 1992 (Cwth) and the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (formerly Television without Frontiers Directive) have been amended to encompass a ban on tobacco product placements. 3 One particular demographic segment that may be adversely affected by product placements is children. Media is often a large part of a child s life, and exposure to popular music, television and movies at developmental ages may make younger people susceptible to these integrated and often subtle product messages, particularly where they involve celebrities and popular characters (Livingstone and Helsper 2006). There have been a few studies focusing on the effect of product placements on minors. In particular, a study by Auty and Lewis (2004) found evidence that children are affected by product placement in an implicit way, in relation to brand choice, a behavioural effect of product placement. This is ethically relevant not only because there may be an effect on minors, with potentially lower levels of media literacy, but because it highlights a non-conscious effect, an ethical issue of concern for all ages. Indeed, a study by Law and Braun (2000) found a similar effect with university students, where a positive effect on choice was apparent despite a lack of correlation between their recall and choice of the brand. This suggests that consumers are not necessarily aware of the effect of a placement on their choice, and thus may not be making informed choices, particularly when placements are covert. Focusing on viewers reaction to this surreptitious influence, d Astous and Seguin (1999) hypothesised that consumers would be opposed to subtle forms of product placements. Interestingly, this hypothesis was supported for placements within informational programs but not for mini-series or game shows, suggesting that viewers may be more concerned with surreptitious influences where information is being imparted and perhaps trusted to do so without bias. Again, this concern is directly reflected in the regulations surrounding product placement in Australia. Disclosure of product placement, or any commercial arrangement between an Australian network, producer or presenter and a third party, is required under the Commercial Television Code of Practice (Aust), yet only applies to factual programming, which includes current affairs, documentaries and infotainment programs. 4 The findings above suggest that perceptions of ethicality are dependent on the type of product placed, how surreptitious the placement may be and whether the audience can discern the true source of the message. Indeed, in a response to the European Union s ban on product placement, Hackley, Tiwsakul, and Preuss (2008) purport that its ethicality is dependent on identification of the brand as the source of the placement and the viewer s level of sophistication in understanding this practice (which they believed to be sufficient). Although this study will not address the question of ethicality directly, it explores viewers sophistication or susceptibility in interpreting these embedded brand cues. 1.4 Defining Product Placement In defining product placement, both academics and practitioners have differed in their opinion. Many academics and practitioners use the term product placement, however, as Karrh (1998) noted, the unit of analysis is often not the general product but particular brands (i.e. Pizza Hut rather than pizza was promoted in Wayne s World). Since then, several academic papers have used the term brand placement to highlight the correct unit of analysis. Although this term would be a more correct term to use, the pervasiveness of the term product placement within both industry and academic literature has generated a common understanding of this label for the practice and so this is the term that will be used in this study. There are both similarities and differences in defining this form of promotion, as highlighted in Table 1.1. The consensus emerging from these definitions is that inclusion or integration of products/brands within some form of entertainment media content defines the practice. The main differences in these definitions relate to the inclusion or exclusion of payment or 5 consideration given by the marketer, the form in which the product/brand is portrayed and within which media it is included. Author (Steortz, 1987, p22) 1 (Balasubramanian 1994) (Ong and Meri 1994) Table 1.1: Definitions of product/brand placement Definition the inclusion of a brand name product package, signage, or other trademark merchandise within a motion picture, television show, or music video product placement is a paid product message aimed at influencing, movie (or television) audiences via planned and unobtrusive entry of a branded product into a movie (or television program) the practice of arranging for brand-name goods to make prominent, paid-for appearances in films, television programs, and other entertainment productions (Baker & Crawford, 1995, the inclusion of commercial products or service in any form in p2) 2 television or film productions in return for some sort of payment from the advertiser (Karrh 1998) (d'astous and Chartier 2000) Entertainment and Resources Marketing Association (ERMA 2004) (Russell and Belch 2005) (Hudson and Hudson 2006) the paid inclusion of branded products or brand identifiers, through audio and/or visual means, within mass media programming. A product placement is the inclusion of a product, a brand name, or the name of a firm in a movie or in a television program for promotional purposes. Product placement is the practice of integrating specific products and brands into filmed entertainment (ERMA). the purposeful incorporation of a brand into an entertainment vehicle The integration of advertising into entertainment content, whereby brands are embedded into storylines of a film, television program, or other entertainment medium. This involves co-creation and collaboration between entertainment, media and brands. 1 From (Ong and Meri 1994) 2 From (McKechnie and Zhou 2003) Whether payment, some other form of consideration (i.e. in-kind, concurrent advertising) or collaboration (i.e. joint promotion) is necessary to define product placement is important for its management. This distinguishes product placement from other forms of incidental product exposure and hints at the idea that product placement requires an intent to place the product. If the placement is not planned, then it may not be the marketer s image of the product that will necessarily be displayed or pursued. This is more akin to publicity than to planned promotion (Balasubramanian 1994). However, in studying the way in which consumers process product placements, consideration is not a defining factor as viewers are often unaware of which products are placed purposefully within mass media by marketers. Despite this, from the perspective of marketing managers, the definition of product placement should 6 include the collaboration, consideration or payment provided by marketers so that it is distinguished as a marketer-generated promotional activity. How brands are represented may vary depending on the modality of the media (i.e. audio, visual etc). For example, product placement within a feature film can depict the actual branded product such as the Hummer driven by Wesley Snipes in The Fan (ERMA 2004). Alternatively, product placement could involve the mention of a brand name within a novel or TV show such as Timex within a Tom Clancy book or Jerry Seinfeld s mention of an Armani suit. Also, with the wide spectrum of media providing entertainment, it is important to use an encompassing term such as entertainment media. In considering these arguments, product placement may be defined as the purposeful inclusion of products or brand identifiers within the content of entertainment media, as a result of payment, consideration or marketer and producer collaboration Program-Related Promotions Along with product placement, there are many other program-related promotional techniques, many of which are often integrated with product placement deals. Sponsorship, infomercials, video news releases and advertiser-funded programs are all different ways of promoting a product within a mass-media context (see Table 1.2). Although they are often used in conjunction, these techniques can be distinguished from one another in their specificity. More broadly, a sponsorship deal may include product placement strategy; however, sponsorship could also involve any number of exploitable commercial tools. For example, Big Brother II was sponsored by New Fanta, as stated at the beginning and end of the show as well as on the program website. Additionally, the product was featured within the show after collaboration with the producers, denoting the product placement strategy. Thus, product placement could be seen as one of many potential tools that could be used in conjunction with 7 a sponsorship deal. Indeed, many product placement deals are cross-platform deals that integrate both sponsorship and advertising with product placement strategy (Jacobs 2002). Product/Brand identifier presented within program Product scripted in context with the scene Primary intent is to entertain Primary intent is to persuade consumers Table 1.2: Differences in Program-Related Promotion Product placement Sponsored News Release Program-related promotion Infomercial Program Advertiser tie-ins -funded Sponsorship Sponsor identified Consideration given Complimentary media used More recently, the term program tie-ins has been used within the Australian industry to describe the extension of many sponsorship/placement deals into complementary media. These include program websites or SMS voting mechanisms linked to the program and which allow the audience to connect with the content, program and brand outside of the primary entertainment medium. Such extended integration is not a part of the original plot or context of the content; yet is often used in conjunction with product placement within the program setting. Other forms of promotion, such as infomercials, where a program-length demonstration of a product is shown, or advertiser-funded programming, such as a purposive Audi movie showcased at car shows (Burbury 2003), also differ from product placement. This difference relates to the intent with which the underlying media program is produced. With the former two techniques, the primary objective is not to provide entertainment but to promote a product 8 or brand, as is the same with a traditional television commercial. This distinction is important as the viewer may more readily discount a message within a recognised promotional vehicle (Balasubramanian 1994) Types of Product Placement In addition to the distinction between product placement and other types of promotion, contrasts between various forms of product placement also exist. Sheehan and Guo (2005) provide a categorisation for product placement types based on the level of integration within the show and the control given to the brand (see Figure 1.1). Product placement within the Australian industry would more often be categorised as product integration as practitioners collaborate with producers at early stages of series development and thus have a greater control over how the brand will be integrated (Parkinson 2003). As a consequence brands are often integrated in an explicit way with guarantees of visibility and auditory prominence. Figure 1.1: Categorisation of Product Placement Types Source: (Sheehan and Guo 2005) 9 Most of the research to date has focused on traditional product placement, however, a few researchers have explored more explicit product integration (Sheehan and Guo 2005; van Reijmersdal, Neijens, and Smit 2007). This study also attempts to further understanding of more controlled and highly integrated placements, and how they may be processed. 1.5 Research Direction Researchers of product placement have begun to recognise that the power of the practice lies outside of the information processing theories used to explain traditional advertising effects (Bhatnagar, Aksoy, and Malkoc 2004). Understanding the nature of television and its appeal may help us to understand how viewers negotiate these contextual brand cues. If this is understood, a brand may better contribute to this environment, going further than merely being seen within the program, providing meaning and satisfaction to the viewer. Specifically, this study explores the nature of the relationship between program and viewer, as well as the structure and conventions of a particular genre, reality TV. Similar to Russell and Stern s (2006) work on the US sitcom, this research aims to address the complexities of program content and understand how the expectations and gratifications surrounding viewing of this content may enhance or diminish the impact a placement may have. An audience is inherently drawn to view a program by its nature and so an understanding of how particular brands relate to this context is also a focus of this study. Much of the placement research to date has focused on executional elements of placements, such as prominence, number of mentions, frequency of placements, modality and so on. This study extends this research is by focusing on the particular execution of the placement in relation to the program content, and by measuring viewer perceptions of this relationship. 10 Furthermore, particular care has been taken to align and maintain the relevance of this research to the Australian placement industry. Although much can be gained from research conducted all over the world, the style and type of placement deals more common to the Australian industry warrants a focus on more explicit placements within lifestyle and reality television. As well as appreciating the particular program context, a fundamental understanding of the type of influence that television h
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