Written by Rebecca Bennett
Typically in the television industry advertisers buy “spots” during a program for a specific length of time in order to hit a targeted market with their product or service. The amount they pay is determined by the ratings of the program. This practice has existed since 1922, when a radio station called WEAF sold its first message slot to a real estate company for a mere $50 that lasted 10 minutes. Little did we suspect that advertiser-sponsored commercials would soon be the main funders of television production and programs.
Nowadays, about 90 years later, who would have thought that programming would succumb to consumer-chosen preferences and habits in such a way, where shows can simply be recorded on a DVR and viewers can easily fast-forward and skip over the millions of dollars spent on consumer advertising to influence viewers to buy a particular service or product. This hardly seems a profitable way for a company to advertise anymore. The better the show, the higher the ratings, and its more likely viewers are to skip over the ads to get back to the seat-tipping story. Unfortunately, higher-priced ad slots in TV programming are losing their value.
We may not see ad slots selling for $50 a pop anymore, but we do know that this is not a sustainable method of advertising for the future considering fundamental developments in technology and media such as computers, HDTV, U-tube, Apps, internet, and Ti-Vo. With so many threats, programmers had to come up with new innovative strategies to get advertisers to pay them so they can continue to create programs. Thus product placement and product integration were born. Although more subtle and less direct, advertisers at least have the guarantee that their “ad” will be seen by the viewer.
With viewers having more choices and control over what they watch it has become a challenge for the modern-day advertiser to hit their market effectively. Viewers can skip over commercials if they recorded programming on their DVR, they can skip over previews in the beginning of a DVD and if they are not given the option to skip over the commercial or ad, then there is so much intriguing content on both the internet and television that viewers can “alt-tab” over to another window or change the channel to something more interesting until they think the ad is done airing. This is the age of information overload and viewers don’t want to miss out on anything. Product placement would seem to alleviate most of that, although it may not as direct of message. There is even the possibility of product placement becoming more aggressive in the sense that companies may pay producers to not only feature their product in their program or film, but also write in dialogue for an actor endorsing the product if it can fit in with the story and character.
The other alternative would be, ironically, for advertisers to invest more in traditional print advertising instead of in media mediums. At least, when you’re driving in rush hour traffic in your car you can’t avoid that gleaming billboard that cries out, “Look at me!” And when you open that newspaper or magazine you still have to come into tactile contact with that ad in order to get to the next page with the gooey gossip you really want to read. But when there are more people online today who have more Netflix and Direct-TV subscriptions than newspaper subscriptions, I strongly sense that product-placement in media will outshine traditional print.