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The science of product placements – and why some work better than others

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In “The Variant,” an episode from the Disney hit streaming show “Loki,” it’s tough to miss the barrage of product placements, with fast-paced action and dialogue taking place in front of Charmin toilet paper, Dove soap and Arm & Hammer deodorant. At one point, Loki barrels down an aisle with vacuum cleaners and fights off an opponent with a corded vacuum while iRobot vacuums are prominently featured on the shelf.

As someone who studies such advertising techniques as product placements, I’m starting to notice them crop up more and more.

With viewers migrating to streaming services and web videos, this trend makes sense. (Who actually watches the full ads that appear at the beginning of a YouTube video?) But not all product placements work as intended, and my research has shown that advertisers need to engage in a delicate dance with viewers to effectively influence them.

Let’s start with a little background. Product placement is a form of advertising in which a company pays a content creator to place its product on the set of a movie, TV shows or music video. While many product placements are the result of such paid relationships, some product placements happen because of creative decisions, such as a writer wanting a character to wear Gucci to convey the character’s affluence. Viewers aren’t typically given information to distinguish between paid and unpaid product placements.

Product placement isn’t new. The oldest examples of products appearing in films date all the way back to the invention of motion pictures, when the Lever Brothers’ Sunlight Soap appeared........

© The Conversation

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