That question was raised at Thursday's panel entitled "The Next Big Idea: The Future of Branded Entertainment," presented by the Hollywood Reporter at The Museum of Television and Radio as part of Advertising Week.
The panelists were Linda Goldstein, Partner, Marketing Advertising and Media, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Laura Caraccioli-Davis, SVP/Director, SMG Entertainment, Starcom MediaVest Group; Matthew Ringel, President, Games Media Properties; and David Collins, co-founder, Scout Productions.
For successful product integration to take place, there obviously needs to be a mutual respect for one another, and Caraccioli-Davis admits that "it takes a different skill set to work with Madison Avenue."
Having control over content is an issue faced by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, sparking the trend of more and more marketers getting into the production business in an effort to be in the driver's seat.
The secret to making a successful product integration is to have a brand become a part of the character's lifestyle. Collins used HBO's "Sex and the City" as example of how Carrie Bradshaw's Apple laptop and Manolo Blahniks were a part of her "lifestyle." And the Manolo Blahniks name became a household familiarity.
For advertisers looking to dabble in product placement, the panelists gave advice on how to measure ROI. It's impossible to measure with the existing traditional models.
"If you are looking for exposure or to make your product hip, don't put measurement tools in place," advised Goldstein.
Video games are another arena chock full of product placement, and the medium is a difficult one to multitask to.
"Videogamers are very passionate about gaming. When you're playing, you're focused on the game," [as opposed to reading a newspaper and watching TV at the same time--you can tune out the TV] said Caraccioli-Davis. "It's hard to multitask while gaming," she continued.
But how much product placement is too much? Clutter and legal issues (advertising to children, for one) need to be dealt with, and Goldstein feels that "the more aware we make consumers of what is happening, the better position we will be in to stave off regulation."
So what's the next big thing for product placement?
"Music has been untouched by this [product placement] to date. The music industry has to find new ways to distribute content," said Ringel. An interesting example given is the agreement between Hallmark and James Taylor, where Taylor's new cd will be available only at Hallmark stores or online.
Goldstein sees a way to properly measure product placement on the horizon. "Having a character in a TV show drive a specific car is integration. Having that character use the GPS system in that car is a home run."