Prime Time On Demand: Big Implications For Product Placement Efficacy

The announcement that NBC Universal and CBS made separate programming deals for their prime-time TV shows, to be offered via video-on-demand services, has startling implications for the potential of product placements in those shows, and across the industry in general.

New research published in the March 2005 Journal of Advertising Research suggests that context characteristics, which include competitive images and distraction/lack of distraction factors, have an influence on attention to message. This concurs with research in and principles of information and communications theory. In addition, when viewers pay for a viewing (even a modest amount as is planned by the networks), their conscious (or cognitive) rejection is mitigated, and their attention and awareness is heightened as they become more receptive to content--interest, engagement, and involvement are all psychological variables at work here that have a positive effect in terms of messaging, entertainment, and communications.



iTVX, which assesses the "quality" of product placements in TV, posits that "commercial-free on-demand" viewership of programs will achieve a higher appraisal value for product placement than traditional commercially bounded airings. This factor is one of multiple elements that iTVX uses to assess the "quality" of product placement integrations. In terms of an "awareness factor" utilized in the iTVX system, product placement is appraised upwards as the venue becomes less and less distracting. Thus, in this new scenario created by CBS and NBC, "altering" the venue (by eliminating commercials via on demand) will generate an awareness factor impact comparable to that of prime-time cable shows such as "The Sopranos"--even though the program and product placement or content is exactly the same as on the regular network airing of a show.

Given this, both CBS and NBC can expect a greater impact, all things being equal, for product placements via on-demand than on its original airing with commercial interruptions. This can also serve to move product placements from a passive, added-value advertising element to one that is primary and accountable for driving brand impact, intention, and sales. The basic principle at work here is that the quality of the placement will become extremely important as it achieves a higher level of prominence and impact. This becomes an excellent selling point for on-demand content providers and advertisers who participate in product placement, potentially creating a "branding lifecycle" that has greater impact.

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