Dramatic Influences in Reality TV

Some voices in the branded entertainment space have been pointing out the potential for misintended outcomes based on unexpected happenings involving product placements on reality shows. For example, on a recent "Apprentice" episode, Best Buy experienced some embarrassing moments, both directly (losing a credit card) and indirectly.

While it makes sense logically and rationally to judge things this way, it is worthwhile to consider the fact that product placements also operate at a deeper, emotional, and perhaps even subconscious level. For support, consider Malcolm Gladwell. In his latest book, he directly explores the power of unconscious mechanisms as being a major force in driving our behavior.

Recent research completed by iTVX has uncovered a very strong relationship between product placement quality and recognition of the brand/product. Recognition, as opposed to recall, captures a broader and deeper sense of the impression a placement makes in a viewer. That is, it taps into the emotional, irrational, and subconscious means that we, as humans, use to make sense of the world.



It's About Drama We respond to drama, at a conscious and unconscious level, and it impresses us due to its symbolic story telling form. Upon deeper inspection, the fact that all these things 'went wrong' in "The Apprentice" builds tension and drama into the mix. This begets involvement and ultimately makes it memorable. At some level, the brand is linked with this story, and all the symbolic elements we associate with it are as well, beyond our rational thoughts and judgments. Although cognitively we may make judgments about good or bad, underneath, on the playing fields of our emotions, it may be a different story.

I wouldn't say to go out and try to purposely create a product placement where everything 'goes wrong.' That said, in the context of a show that involves the viewer at a number of levels, as well as produces dramatic tension and delivers resolution, we should be aware of both sides of the coin. As the Advertising Research Foundation and others are researching and discovering, our emotional side is becoming the place to understand what drives consumers and audiences.

To view "The Apprentice" Best Buy clip please click here.

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