Friday, January 14, 2011

Does product placement embed in my head?

I read an article the other day covering the 7 Network's decision to digitally place products in scenes throughout its top-rating Packed to the Rafters and Home and Away soapies. It got me thinking about the first time I can recall product placement and guess where it was? None other than American playwright, Arthur Miller's, Pultizer Prize winning play, 'Death of a Salesman'.

Why did this stick in my mind? I think only because in the school English exam I sat in the 70s I was asked what the use of the word 'simonise' signified. In the play, one of Miller's characters remarks that 'Willy used to simonise that car'. The correct exam answer was it was a word Arthur Miller had created to express the affection salesman, Willy Loman, had for his car. This was bollocks of course. The word was commonly used and derives from Simoniz, a brand of car polish launched in 1934 by George Simons. The reason I recall this product reference in the play was the deep disillusionment I felt about having to write crap in the exam rather than any favourable disposition embedded in me by Willy Loman.

So to 7's decision on product placement in these two shows, or placements in any other show or movie for that matter. I cannot see that digitally positioned packs of Kelloggs Cornflakes at the Rafter breakfast table, or a Fosters can down the pub in Summer Bay will convince me that I should try or reconsider these products. In fact, will I even notice them? As I peruse the supermarket shelves, will I be irresistably drawn to Cornflakes because Ben Rafter eats them? More likely, I'll be drawn to a product that tennis player, Pat Rafter, eats because he looks a thousand times better in Bonds than I do.

I guess it's all to do with alignment. I fit neither the Rafters or Summer Bay audience. Even though it envelopes me, suburban life doesn't fascinate me, and my prospects with babes down the bay started to diminish about 20 years ago. Problem is, I cannot really recall any product placement that has impacted me in any conscious way, except one - the Aston Martin DB5 in the Bond movies. Perhaps its appearance in no less than five movies in the years in which my testosterone flowed most freely has something to do with it.

I must investigate the psychology of product placement and how it really works. Luxury brands seem to indulge in this marketing pastime quite a lot, so perhaps has to be aspirational to work. With all due respect to the companies concerned, local cops chasing crooks in cars provided by Ford or Toyota just don't get me running to my local dealer.

I'll confess that I missed a great opportunity for product placement when the producers of the yet-to-be-released Mad Max movie contacted me about borrowing Ford vehicles to use in the shoot.

Sounded like a loony plot at the time and they did want to remove and replace panels from our pristine vehicles, so I declined. My worse brand promotion decision ever? Possibly, but perhaps it was good judgement because there were many fanciful chariots thrashing around the desert in that movie, but there was no readily identifiable auto brand that I could see.

Happy to hear from anyone who can present insights into the power of product placement. My mind is open, even if it's not retentive...

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