Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Product Placement or Product Search?

We have all seen the subtle but sometimes obvious product placements on TV and in films. These can earn significant exposure for a brand and literally touch millions. Car manufacturers have been know to fight hard and pay big to get their latest model on screen and it always interesting what brands you can spot on the soaps. It’s in your face but outside of the commercial break.

We now read an old story that was released in 2006 but got visibility today and prompted us to revisit it. It refers to a book ‘Cathy’s Book’ by Stewart and Weisman and which was first released in the US in 2006 by Running Press and published in the UK last year by Bloomsbury.

Product placement has come to books and the original article refers to the changing of a reference to specific lipstick and shade in the manuscript to a generic brand from Proctor and Gamble in the finished book. The manufacturers haven’t paid cash for the placement but are instead are promoting the novel on their, a site dedicated to young girls make up, and tips on life, and through their cosmetic brand Cover Girl. Go to the site and see and hear a funky piece of marketing

Unfortunately the Bloomsbury site doesn’t have the same buzz and the search inside on the page took us to David Dimbley’s ‘How Britain was Built’ – hardly relevant unless you count lip gloss as foundation!

A novel will obviously make references to all sorts of common goods but do so to add relevance and gain empathy with what they are trying to describe. In reality the opportunity is very real but unless the book is a bestseller the eyeballs could be limited and not the sort of speculative investment advertisers like.

There are exceptions and apparently Bulgari went one step further and commissioned Fay Weldon five years ago to write ‘The Bulgari Connection.’ Not bad work if you can get it!

Irrespective of the success of individual titles to secure ad placement funding or support it looks an exercise doomed to be undermined by technology. Why should manufacturers pay anything to a publisher or author when they can potentially search their product on a book search and then place their ads accordingly. It may not happen that way but as content becomes searchable on line so does the opportunities to exploit it in ways that were never possible before. Go to Google search on Books and type in ‘Nescafe’, ‘Perrier Water’, ‘Walkman’, etc and you soon get past the brand marketing books to novels that refer to the brands. Unfortunately sometimes the reference isn’t always what you expect! But interesting how content search and advertising aren’t far apart.