When a company pays for its product to be featured in a movie or a television show to increase brand awareness, it’s called product placement. This form of advertising has been around almost as long as movies and television shows themselves, and has long been a secondary source of income for networks and content producers. When factoring in commercial-skipping technology such as DVR and on-demand programming, product placement becomes even more attractive for advertisers.
However, this type of brand marketing is a double-edged sword. While companies can weave their products into shows, they are in danger of alienating consumers with overzealous product-placement campaigns. The effectiveness of product placement is also a key question, and strategies can range from featuring a brand briefly on screen to having it play a key role in the plot.
In the past year, reality TV shows have been the leaders for integrating brands through product placement, with products tied into the themes and storylines of the show. While scripted television has received fewer instances, a recent report released by Nielsenshows that these spots are more memorable for the audience.
Nielsen has compiled the top programs with product placement, and the following is a list, ranked by number of product placement occurrences in 2011, including sponsors and memorable instances of brand integration.
So, which prime time shows had the most product placement in the past year? Click ahead to find out!
By Jill Weinberger and Joseph O'Dell
Posted 5 January 2012
Product placement occurrences: 161
Episodes in 2011: 11
“The Amazing Race” pits 11 two-member teams in a race around the world, each competing for a $1 million prize. The contest’s format allows for seamless integration of product placement in all facets of the show, from what car they drive to the challenges the contestants face.
Travelocity,the primary sponsor, is featured throughout the program. In one of the more standout scenes of product placement, it had the contestants create the company's signature “Roaming Gnome” out of chocolate.
Another challenge had contestants find a mango-papaya tea in a taste test out of hundreds of other teas, in an event sponsored by Snapple.Ford Motor even issued a press release that listed its productsto be featured on the show’s 19th season. With many opportunities for product placement, it’s no wonder that “The Amazing Race” features a wide variety of brands...for a price.
Product placement occurrences: 178
Episodes in 2011: 26
Hosted by former model Tyra Banks, the CW’s fashion reality show follows model hopefuls as they compete to become “America’s Next Top Model.” The format incorporates product placement into many of the challenges, including scenes where contestants prep for challenges, use specific beauty products, or directly pose for a brand-oriented photo shoots or commercials.
The show is officially sponsored by CoverGirl, which supplies the winner with a $100,000 modeling contract. As a result, many challenges revolve around using and applying CoverGirl makeup. This includes challenges where contestants are rated on everything from the best use of CoverGirl products to the best public relations pitch for the products. In several of the show’s 17 seasons, there is an episode where the contestants are asked to write, produce, and perform in a commercial for CoverGirl.
Product placement occurrences: 201
Episodes in 2011: 13
In the only show on the list that doesn’t fall under the “reality” genre, “Friday Night Lights” took advantage of lucrative corporate tie-ins in 2011. The show, set in the fictional football town of Dillon, Texas, has been a critical darling since it has first aired. However, lagging ratings threatened the show with cancellation after its second season.
In an effort to save the show, DirecTV brokered a dealwith NBC to subsidize production costs so that its customers could see new episodes before they ran on NBC. The show was an ideal spot to feature merchandise or brands such as Costco, Sam Adams, Under Armor, Gatorade, and Ford because of its main theme of small-town community and love of football.
After the last season, many fans might more readily recognize Applebee’s, since one of the characters Tyra, played by Adrianne Palicki, worked at the restaurant, garnering it numerous mentionson the show.
Product placement occurrences: 220
Episodes in 2011: 32
NBC’s talent competition, hosted by Nick Cannon, differs from its counterparts, “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” in that it includes not only singers, but a wider range of talents. Like the other shows, “America’s Got Talent” does engage in product placement and brand integration.
The show features an Orville Redenbacher Loungefor contestants, text-in voting available only through AT&T,and even a segment with the Smurfsinteracting with Cannon and the contestants.
These are among only a few instances of product placement that range from subtle to scripted segments featuring items from the show's sponsors, including Blackberry, MySpace, and Twitter.
Product placement occurrences: 224
Episodes in 2011: 31
”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” features down-on-their-luck families, often living in meager conditions. The show describes the family’s story in a touching way, and explains how they are in need of help. Each episode, host Ty Pennington surprises the family and completely renovates their home in a week’s time.
Throughout the show, product placement is a logical fit, since the cast and crew have the opportunity to mention brands in their trips to Searsfor Pella Windows and Kenmore appliances. Some of the placements are less subtle. In one episode, Tyson Foods provided 20,000 pounds of chicken for an entire community and a year’s worth of food for one family. During the event, a Tyson truck with a large logo was prominently featured with Pennington hanging off the side. This specific placement was estimated to be up to four times as effective as regular product placement, according to the New York Daily News.
Product placement occurrences: 312
Episodes in 2011: 26
”The X Factor” is a singing competition series, similar to many other TV talent contests, where judges select which contestants progress through the show’s many rounds. The show's main sponsor is Pepsi, which is mentioned and featured throughout the show.
The most notable instances of product placement are the prominently placed Pepsi cups appearing in front of the judges. There is also the constant reminder in every episode that the winner will be featured in a Pepsi commercial during the Super Bowl. One of the musical guests, Outasight, performed the song “Tonight’s the Night” during the show, which is featured in Pepsi commercials.
Many interactive elements in the show are Pepsi-related, including a segment called the “Pepsi Choice Performance,”which allows viewers to select details of a special ensemble performance.
In addition to Pepsi, there are two other major sponsors, General Motors' Chevrolet, which features SUVs transporting the judges, and Sony Music, which provides a $5 million recording contract to the winner.
Product placement occurrences: 390
Episodes in 2011: 29
“Dancing With the Stars” pairs professional dancers with celebrities in a dance competition, complete with a full panel of judges and viewer participation.
In the show, examples of product placement feature other shows and movies, most of which are owned by ABC and its parent company, Walt Disney. This past year, as part of the promotion for an upcoming movie, The Muppetscompeted against the other celebrities and dancers. In the past, “Dancing with the Stars” has also featured acts from Cirque do Soleil, Michael Jackson's Immortal World Tour,and the Broadway show "The Lion King."Guest artists also make appearances, where they perform songs from upcoming albums.
Product placement occurrences: 391
Episodes in 2011: 12
The show, hosted by Donald Trump, brings celebrities together to compete in business-driven challenges that can range from developing a new product, producing a commercial, selling merchandise, or running a company. With so many options, the format makes it easy to integrate a company or product.
Some of the challenges in the 2011 season included staging a camping experience using supplies from Camping World, creating an environment inside a 10-by-10-foot box that embodies Australian Gold's brand, and producing 30-second spots for ACN's new videophone.
In this year’s finale, the contestants were asked to come up with a promotional campaign for 7-UP Retro, which included designing the packaging and in-store display, producing a commercial, and launching a star-studded event that promoted the brand.
Product placement occurrences: 533
Episodes in 2011: 34
“The Biggest Loser,” the competitive weight-loss reality show, finds multiple ways to integrate products into the show, whether it’s where the contestants work out, which food they use in cooking, or “trainer tips” that mention specific brands.
The official sponsor of the show is Subway, which is mentioned throughout the show. Contestants are shown taking “field trips,”eating Subway sandwiches and learning about the sandwich’s nutritional content. Subway is even incorporated into the challenges; in one episode, contestants are given the task of coming up with their own Subway sandwich.
Other products that have been featured in the challenges and tips include 24 Hour Fitness Gyms, Ziploc, Progresso, and Extra sugar-free gum.
Product placement occurrences: 577
Episodes in 2011: 39
This year, a whopping 577 occurrences were found on the reality talent show “American Idol,” making it No. 1 for product placement. “Idol” is also consistently one of the most watched shows on television.
It’s hard to miss the product placement. The judges will sip from large cups emblazoned with Coca-Cola logos, contestants will wait in the “Coca-Cola” lounge, viewers are encouraged to text/call from their AT&T wireless phones, and Ford showcases weekly “music videos” that feature contestants driving their vehicles.
According to Variety magazine, product placement in the show has become more expensive over the years. The official sponsors, Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Ford,currently pay up to $50 million to $60 million a year, compared with $25 million to $35 million that was spent in the show’s earlier years.