There was an interesting article in last weekend’s Sunday Times written by an academic who was clearly extremely upset by the penchant for the producers of South Africa’s TV soapies to write commercial products and services into scripts in an effort to boost revenue.
Apparently, if you mine down into social media, there are a growing number of viewers who are increasingly irritated by the blatant product promotion inserted into the middle of the soapie’s drama.
And if the producers of these programmes don’t wise up fast, not only will this negative reaction from viewers start increasing dramatically but more and more actors will refuse to get involved in such crass promotion.
There has already been at least one case of an actor demanding a piece of the action in terms of the extra revenue earned from product placement.
All of this is highly regrettable because it would be a disaster if branded television and product placement suffered any sort of negative reaction.
They are perfectly legitimate and clever ways of being able to promote products other than through regular commercial breaks, which are proving to be less and less effective simply because, other than the lower LSMs, nobody watches them anymore – 80% in the USA and 72% in Europe and probably more than 50% among upper LSM’s in South Africa avoid ad breaks.
What is happening right now is that soapie producers who are getting flak from academics and viewers are simply getting it wrong.
The whole purpose and power of product placement is that it should be subtle enough that viewers don’t realise it is actually advertising they are seeing.
This is no simple task and requires a lot of thought and creative genius to make sure that it is powerful enough to seen and remembered, but not blatant enough to be considered a cheap advertising ploy.
It is quite clear to me that in their haste to take advantage of this product placement and branded television lifeline, programme producers have allowed things to get out of hand.
Not nearly enough thought is going into how product placement is being implemented and unless something is done very smartly marketers will begin to lose interest in what has always been a really great idea.
In my own business, I advise clients on more than half a billion rand’s worth of ad spend and I have to say I am getting really cynical about the return on investment television is offering through normal commercial breaks. Product placement is a great option and I would hate to see it looking death in the face.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk