A decade ago people complained about it, but now product placement has become such a predictable part of the American media experience that brand marketers can both leverage and lampoon it at the same time. Breath freshener Binaca is trying to revive its old brand by soliciting online filmmakers to insert the product into classic film scenes.
Working with the creative crowd-sourcing service Tongal, Binaca's challenge works in two stages. Filmmakers create and enter scenes involving the product in order to win a $10,000 prize. Then key influencers online will be recruited to help popularize the winning video and make it go viral. They upload the video to their YouTube accounts and start counting the views. For this second piece the most successful viral activators will get prized everything from iPads to trips for reaching viewership milestones of 50,000 to 1 million.
This is a novel attempt to re-introduce a breath freshening brand that many of us forgot and a new generation of consumers don't even know. Back in the day when many of us packed a cylinder of breath spray Binaca was commonplace. In fact sneaking a quick breath spray hit became a comic convention in pop culture - a kind of indicator of frantic self-consciousness. Nowadays I guess we just slip one of those Listerine breath squares in our mouths. But Binaca wants back into the conversation, and this campaign aims to recruit the YouTube generation.
It follows the success of a viral video involving Binaca placed in a scene from "Die Hard." Made by an LA comedy troupe for Tongal earlier this year, the video went viral and seemed to happen upon a neat association of product with advertising theme. Insert a breath freshener into film scenes and close-ups. A campaign is born. Tongal has an intricate system for recruiting creatives to respond to RFPs from brands and then vote on and distribute the products.
One has to wonder what it means that both product placement and viral distribution have become such cultural commonplaces that brands can recruit consumers to collaborate on two new ad forms that originally relied on near-invisibility. Now these techniques are themselves just self-conscious parts of the cultural landscape. How effective is advertising when everyone is in one the process? Are we responding to a creative message from a brand or rewarding its creativity? We're all Don Drapers now? Or Peggy Olsons trying to be Don Draper?