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  • Writer's pictureShabbir Akhtar

Product Placements - vice or virtue?

After the fiasco of Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to remove two Coca-Cola bottles from view at a press conference and the touted subsequent fall in Coca-Cola's fall in the share price by $4 billion, there are many who are saying that product placement has become a passé.

I do not agree that product placement has become a passé, but I do agree that the way it is done is more important than ever. With the growth of social media and YouTube becoming the second largest search engine, with every event from any part of the globe landing to the platform within minutes of its occurrence, either in a planned or unplanned manner, product placements is still one of the most important forms of promotion. Add to that the power of memes and rip-offs circulating through social media after a viral video, and you have got a winner!

Product placement is something I have been following for years after being introduced to the concept through the 2011 documentary by Morgan Spurlock - ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ - about branding, advertising, and product placement that is financed and made possible by branding, advertising, and product placement. I feel the contextual product placements that are done in movies and its promotion is something that will live on.

I am referring to the product placement of Audi e-Tron GT, an all-electric luxury sedan that is loaded with gadgets and gizmos, which is not only shown to be used fittingly by Iron Man in the movie ‘Avengers: Endgame’ but is also used by Robert Downey Jr. to come to the premiere of the movie. Beyond the product placement itself, both tactics did not only get covered by video and text web content creators but was a hot favorite of the mainline media as well – leading to high share of voice in both online and offline world. The product was so contextual to the character being portrayed on the silver screen as well as fit the persona of the star who played the character that the placement of it seemed natural and seamless.

Closer to home, the Singapore-made beer, Tiger, several bottles of it indeed, got placed in the premiere episode of Disney+’s ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’. Here too the placement was contextual and felt natural. But this placement seemed more meticulously planned and fittingly placed right at the opening of the series, which was the first series to be premiered after the launch of Disney+ in Singapore.

This, coupled with the facts that the fictional country of Madripoor in the series was indicated to be inspired from Singapore and Captain America’s iconic shield was projected onto the Singapore Flyer to launch the series (with London and Melbourne being the only other two cities to get such a launch) it clearly showed that Singapore was a critical market for Disney. The placement of Tiger also got a lot of coverage from online content creators and mainline line media, increasing the reach of the placement beyond the confines of the Disney+ app.

But the product placement in interviews, events and press conferences have always looked forced, but something sponsors of large format events expect. Should such product placements be continued is a point of debate, but with UEFA warning players they could be hit with fines if they move drinks at press conferences, it is clear that such product placements are here to stay for now.

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