DTC Brands using Product Placement: Does it work or not?

2 min read
Saksham Mendiratta
DTC Brands using Product Placement: Does it work or not?

Remember when you saw that brand you liked on your favorite T.V. show or movie? You probably don’t, but trust me it was there. Isn’t it weird how often we see brands in movies? Most of the times it’s a computer or a phone someone is using, probably an Apple or Samsung. All the cars are usually BMWs. These brands sponsor them to promote their product. This is called Product Placement, a form of advertising that isn’t as obvious.

Product Placements are not a novel idea. An 1896 movie by Auguste and Louis Lumière (The Lumiere brothers) featured the Unilever manufactured Sunlight soap and is probably the first recorded instance of paid product placements in movies. In the 1980s, product placements became widely used after E.T. followed a trail of Reese’s Pieces out of the woods, resulting in a reported 65% increase in profits for Hershey’s, and that is no small number. It is said that the first ever product placement in Bollywood took place in a film named Shree 420 in 1955 where a large Coca-Cola banner can be seen in the background when Raj Kapoor (the actor of the movie) enters Mumbai for the first time.

Let’s talk about one of the first web-series in India to use product placement, ‘Permanent Roommates’. In season one, the story was about a couple looking for a flat in Mumbai to live-in and that was how the basic product was integrated into the content as a main plot device. Ola Cabs strengthened its branding roots by becoming the title sponsor for their second season, where they introduced a character named Purushottam Ji who is an Ola taxi driver along with whom they have included his Ola taxi who is named “Shabnam”. Soon enough more shows were getting made and channels found a great alliance with big brands like Kingfisher, Airtel, Flipkart and many more. Kingfisher was not having a good time advertising mineral water on TV, but after being appointed as the main brand for the show “Pitchers”, they got a platform where they could place their flagship product without any hindrance. The show had the most viewership in the age range of 19–30 — the target audience the brand wanted and an idea where young entrepreneurs discussed their highs and lows over pitchers of beer in uptown pubs. The icing on the cake was a viral line from the show “Tu Beer Hain”.

It’s safe to say the potential of product placement is unmatched if done correctly. This fusion of advertising and entertainment helps brands reach and engage with many of their target audiences. Unlike traditional advertising, a significant benefit of product placement is that viewers cannot skip the marketing. The placement is a part of the TV show, movie or other visual medium.

Product placements boost brand recognition massively — the audience is also more likely to recognize and name a brand after seeing it in product placement. Product placement need not just be limited to TV shows and movies. Influencers are now a big part of our culture. Almost every single influencer on Instagram can be seen advertising brands as such.

Influencers know how to make us desire something. First, they portray their perfect way of life and all the things that help them remain so flawless. We strive for the same, hence believe that it is necessary to purchase all the products that an influencer has in order to approach the ideal. The product we do not have yet is believed to solve our problems. That’s why we do not cease buying. That’s how it works.

One of the keys to the D2C brand SUGAR’s (SUGAR cosmetics, founded by Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee) success has been its use of influencer marketing and social media hype generation. The use of social media marketing and viral content has netted SUGAR revenue of INR 100 Cr with more than 1.5 million followers on Instagram, 300 million impressions across all social media channels and 2 million monthly visits to its website. Similar to these platforms, we have YouTube as well. YouTube product placements remain one of the most effective methods for brands to reach millions of consumers and leverage the authentic relationship that YouTubers have with their followers. To introduce their educational streaming service to LinusTechTip’s 2.6 million subscribers, CuriosityStream sponsored a product placement that appeared in the middle of one of the YouTuber’s most popular review videos. In addition to giving viewers valuable information about CuriosityStream, LinusTechTips also included a coupon to drive engagement and boost campaign ROI. This Indian YouTube channel called “Shitty Ideas Trending”, uploads short sketches, series, and specials 2–3 times a week. They have a large fanbase of 1.9 million subscribers.

Multiple DTC brands have used the platform to market their products. Shitty Ideas Trending uses these products and incorporates them into the storyline seamlessly, and the consumers don’t even realize that they’re actually being advertised a product, it happens subconsciously.

Leaving all these perks aside, let’s come to the financial side of things. To go ahead and put your brand in a movie or TV show isn’t something you can just do out of nowhere, it requires a large amount of funding.

  • For movies, the partnership can range anywhere from ₹ 70 lakh to ₹ 4 crore for co-branded, out-of-movie associations (brand campaigns, contests and tie-ups with the movie and its star cast), while in the case of a brand’s placement within a movie, the cost is approximately ₹ 15 lakh to ₹ 1 crore.
  • For YouTube content (sketches, web-series etc.), the makers of most of the prominent web series’ are now commanding anything between at least ₹15–20 lakh per episode to even up to a crore for someone like TVF. When it comes to YouTube any content creator with more than 10,000 to over a million subscribers is considered an influencer.
  • For influencers, the cost of brand partnership is in line with the subscriber/following base of the influencer and can range from ₹ 12,000 to ₹ 1 lakh per video, apart from additional cost for social media posts.

With such a large flexible range financially, there’s room for all kinds of brands to come and shoot their shot at product placement.

I personally have definitely been influenced by product placement subconsciously. Which is why I think it’s an excellent marketing option for DTC brands to spread their brand at a much faster rate and also to a much larger audience. They just have to sit down and strategize a model that they can adapt to one of the following mediums that we discussed, after that they can just sit back and watch their numbers grow.