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  • Bob Freas

The Power of Product Placement



When you work for a media agency, your senses are heightened when it comes to advertising. I guess it may be common to notice things related to the industry you work in. Anyway, I find myself paying closer attention to ads on TV, streaming services, podcasts, social media sites, and even billboards I drive past. I usually just think about the messaging and who the advertisement is trying to appeal to. The goals of most advertising are to reach the target audience, increase brand awareness, and lift sales. So, I really took notice this summer when I was watching the Stranger Things series on Netflix and witnessed the power of product placement.


What is Product Placement?

Product placement, also known as embedded marketing, is a marketing technique where references to specific brands or products are incorporated into another work, such as a film or television program, with specific promotional intent. Product placement can be a successful marketing tool, allowing brands to take advantage of getting their product in front of a large, captivated audience.


In terms of viewership, we can safely say Stranger Things has a substantial audience. The viewership for their most recent season 4 (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 combined) was 1.352 billion hours watched in the first 28 days of release, the most ever for any English-language series on Netflix. That provides a ton of opportunity for featuring products and that is exactly what happened. Major brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Burger King, 7-Eleven, Eggo, Doritos, Adidas and many more can be viewed throughout the series. Episodes even featured music by several different artists, everyone from Metallica to Kate Bush. Being a big music fan, this is what caught my attention and made me really take notice of the aftereffects.


Those who watched the series remember the finale that featured Metallica’s song “Master of Puppets” from their 1986 album of the same name. Also featured was the song “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush from her 1985 album called Hounds of Love. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I am a fan of Metallica and listen to their music often. As for Kate Bush, not so much but I do remember that particular song but probably haven’t heard it since. The point is this, the viral reaction that followed has had a significant impact on both artists.


People from all different generations, including Gen Z who weren’t even born when these songs came out, were discovering, listening, and reacting. For example, “Running Up That Hill” hit No.1 on Spotify’s Top 50 U.S. streaming chart and No. 2 on the company’s Top 50 Global chart in June after the feature. Not to mention it was featured in 2.7 million TikTok videos.


As for Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” the song hit No. 1 on the iTunes rock chart, 36 years after it was originally released. That is what you call exposure and reach. It shows the real power of product placement. The two songs were basically revitalized because of a placement in Stranger Things. Along with the exposure to such a large audience comes an increase in things like merch sales, concert ticket sales, and album streams and sales. Not bad for a couple of 36+ year old tunes.


What About Small or Mid-level Businesses?


Understand that not all businesses are lucky enough to land a placement in a hit streaming series on Netflix, but it’s really just about selling your brand. Small and mid-level businesses can use the strategy of creating advertising placements that increase awareness and connect with people on an emotional level, so their product is remembered. Reminding potential customers about your product and attracting new customers is the goal for many businesses. For me it was the nostalgia factor that made me watch a show that reminded me of my childhood, and then revisit the music that was featured in that show.


Most businesses will not have the opportunity for a big screen product placement, but they can take advantage of the many platforms that are available, social media, digital, and influencer marketing to name a few. Just remember, creating visibility and then making a connection with the consumer is the key!

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