Last night as I was watching House Hunters on HGTV (it was taking place in Baltimore!); I noticed the blatant product placement of the Chevy Cruz. There were numerous close ups of the Chevy logo on the new SUV, and for every house they visited there were shots of the realtor and the client driving and getting out of the car. This made me realize how many televisions shows and movies are featuring specific car brands and models.
Between January and March 2011, $18 billion was spent on TV advertising and researchers measured over 5,000 product placements during primetime on major broadcasts and cable networks (Nielsen). At the top of the list for industries advertising on television is Automotive, spending 2.7 billion (Nielsen). In 2010, there was an average of 17.9 products per #1 film (brandchannel).
The Toyota Prius seems to be making its rounds in movies. In 2010, the Prius was shown in The Other Guys, Repo Men, The Kids Are Alright, Wall Street 2, and The Next Three Days. The car was also integrated into TV shows like The Office, Big Bang Theory and Curb Your Enthusiasm. One would expect that Toyota is paying big bucks for the exposure, but Doug Coleman, Prius Product Manager, wrote on a message board in 2009 saying, “Generally speaking, OEMs have to pay to get their cars into these programs, sometimes a pretty penny if it’s well integrated. But almost always with Prius, it’s the studios asking us for the vehicles, and very little or no money. That’s one of the nice perks about having been so warmly received by Hollywood.”
If advertisers are worried about viewers fast forwarding through advertisements through DVR or TiVo, they could take some notes from Buick and Desperate Housewives. When the Buick LaCrosse was being launched in 2005, Eva Longoria’s character, Gabrielle, found a modeling job as the mall spokesman for the LaCrosse. As Longoria did her “job” on television, viewers were essentially watching a Buick commercial narrated by Longoria.
But does automotive product placement really sells cars? No one is really sure. For some, it’s more about branding their cars than it is actually selling the cars. Mike Jackson, GM North America vice president for marketing and advertising says they took this approach with Transformers. “Transformers is a compelling project and offers us a global platform for marketing GM products and building our brands. It represents the perfect intersection of entertainment, marketing and design.”