I recently had the honour of meeting the man who introduced the famous Cremora ad to South Africa. The phrase ‘It’s not inside it’s onnnn top’ was known by every one of my generation and older and Cremora moved rapidly from being a little known brand to market leader.
In my mind TV advertising was at its most effective in those early days. The entire family would sit around the TV and watch the exact same shows as every other household. We had no choice: there were only two channels.
So what changed? Thankfully more TV channels were introduced, significantly increasing the number of shows we could watch. This meant that my neighbour was no longer watching the same show as I was. Secondly, it became increasingly common for households to have more than one television.
Not only was I now watching a different show to my neighbour, but I was watching a different show to my parents sitting in the room next door.
What happened next however shook the advertising world the most. Advances in digital technology meant that we could record shows and skip or fast forward through ads. Even while watching TV in real time, viewers are using their second-screens during ad breaks to check in on social media and respond to emails.
As a result television programmers and content creators are looking for new revenue models. Similarly advertisers are seeking new ways to attract attention to their products to make the most of their clients’ investments.
Product placement is one solution to the above challenge. Product placement has been active for many years in the United States, but the demand for it in Britain reached a point whereby Ofcom (the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industries) only recently deregulated it.
Product placement is excellent for generating brand awareness, but it only really works for those brands with a strong on-screen presence. The Coca-Cola cups sitting on the judges table during ‘American Idol’ is a great example. It doesn’t however work as well for products that are not as obvious, like items of clothing or beauty brands.
This is where social media comes in to play. By adding a social element to product placement those advertisers have an additional channel to promote their clients’ brands. This ‘social product placement’ can be used to push messages out through several different channels during a show. These messages would significantly enhance product placement as they provide a detailed description of the product, possibly even an image, as well as a link to where the interested individual can purchase what they see. As a result product placement moves beyond brand awareness to include a direct sales channel.
Social product placement can be taken one step further. In addition to proactively sending out messages about products, social product placement can also be used to monitor conversations and react to any queries about relevant items. In fact these conversations are already happening. Viewers are using Facebook and Twitter to ask shows where they can purchase products they have seen on TV – what better time to make a sale.
What if we take it even further and every item featured in a TV show, from clothing to crockery, could be purchased? It would be like window-shopping while watching your favourite show. The demand for this is already there. According to the IAB (US Interactive Advertising Bureau) and eConsultancy (international digital marketing and ecommerce forum), more than two-thirds of Americans younger than 44 and with multiple devices will search and shop for products they have seen while watching TV.
Could this be the solution advertisers, programmers and content creators have been looking for? They have been hit hard in recent times; digital innovation has a habit of doing that. It does, however, also generate opportunities, and social product placement could very well be one of them. n
Kingsley Maunder is the founder and CEO of Style on Screen, a British-based company that enables this kind of shopping.