Every movie fan is hip to the product placement routine. From the car in the car chase, to the beverage of choice of the protagonist, to the fast food restaurants they visit, everything has a brand behind it. Famously, the extra-terrestrials got in on product placement with Reese’s Pieces because Mars wouldn’t let them use M & Ms. Beyond movies it’s television and games as well. Figures for 2006 indicate that two thirds of advertisers used the product placement method. Now with the Internet, product placement is evolving into a new generation.
In China of all places, Estee Lauder is attracting much buzz for its Clinique brand by placing it in a soap opera. But this soap opera is not on television, it’s online. The show, “Lucy’s Diary” is written around Clinique rather than the other way around. Lucy goes to the Clinique cosmetics counter. She and her friends discuss the various products. In some cases viewers get to decide whether Lucy should go to the Clinique counter or someplace else.
To the extent that experts can predict anything about consumer habits these days, they are predicting that the future of advertising will be all about smarter product placement such as “Lucy’s Diary.” It’s smart to build a brand by having consumers interact with it. And the Internet offers unlimited possibilities for this through social networking as well as online content. By this reasoning, possibilities are endless.
In China, “Lucy’s Diary” has already attracted 20 million viewers. Of course, this being China with its billion plus people, 20 million is less than one third the impact it would be here. Still, it’s a smart move because while the average young Chinese consumer watches eleven hours of television each week, they watch sixteen hours of online content. Now the key will be to get online watchers into online stores to buy the products placed in front of them.