From Product Placement to Branded Entertainment

Hotels Finding New Ways to Cut Through the Clutter

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | November 02, 2014

Product placement is the insertion of brand logos or branded merchandise into movies and television shows. Since television viewers have a tendency – and now the technology – to zip through or avoid commercials, product placement has become increasingly popular. Tourism and hospitality marketers have been quick to take advantage of this growing trend. British Airways was one of the first companies to be endorsed by James Bond in his movies, and Virgin paid a large amount for a promotional tie-in with the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Destinations, too, have begun to see product placement as an opportunity to gain exposure. Many are keen to persuade producers to make films, television series or commercials in their country or region.

Branded entertainment on the other hand is a relatively new term to describe a more contemporary, sophisticated use of product placement, and can been defined as the integration of advertising into entertainment content, whereby brands are embedded into story-lines of a film, television program, or other entertainment medium. The term has been widely used by the advertising industry for some time, and usually involves co-creation and collaboration between entertainment, media and brands. Examples of brands creating entertainment are Coca-Cola, BMW, and Ford, who have all adopted the role of program producer.

According to a recent survey by the Custom Content Council, branded entertainment is a $44 billion business, with the pace of change and innovation accelerating. It has been suggested that the rise of branded entertainment within contemporary media culture marks a fundamental shift from intrusive advertising pushed at uninterested audiences, to advertising of such merit that the audience actively seeks it out.

Rather than focusing on a sales-driven message, key to the short-term economic metrics of conventional advertising, branded entertainment has the ability to build long-term relationships with consumers, deepening brand loyalty among targeted groups. Successful branded entertainment does not mean infusing important product messages with appealing images. It is more about connecting and developing an emotional appeal.

There has been a fair amount written about product placement, but there are subtle differences between product placement and branded entertainment. These differences can be illustrated by way of a continuum that expresses the level of brand integration with the storyline or plot (see Figure 1). At one end of the continuum with no brand integration, there is passive product placement, such as the prominent depiction of the Coca Cola name in the program American Idol. Such placements are less effective than other types of placement. At the other end of the continuum, the product is integrated into the storyline for the program or film, a strategy that can be much more effective.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.