Netflix has provoked many viewers with its warning that ads may come to the platform by the end of the year. But the image of Netflix as ad-free haven is largely mistaken.
No, Netflix is not running any ads yet. But product placement has run amok on the network. Product Placement Blog reports 140 instances of product placement on Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things.” Such placements include Skittles, Sony, Reebok, Minute Maid and many others. “Stranger Things” is credited with boosting sales of Eggo waffles by 14% one year.
Advertising industry experts place the overall value of product placements for "Stranger Things" at $25 million or so. However, a Netflix spokesman said that for “Stranger Things 3,” which ran in 2019, “None of the brands and products that appear in ‘Stranger Things 3’ were paid for or placed by third parties. They’re all part of the Duffer Brothers’ storytelling, which references 1980s consumer and popular culture.”
There are lots of other examples of product placement on the heretofore ad-free Netflix, including Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 on Netflix’s "The Bubble"; Coors Banquet Beer, Dell and Mercedes-Benz on Cobra Kai; Diesel for the Netflix show "Money Heist," and others.
Netflix isn’t the only one. On Apple TV, New Balance has had product placed on "Ted Lasso," and "Defending Jacob." Even Disney Plus has engaged in product placement for Apple’s iPads.
Advocates for such placements say they are more accepted than ads, especially by younger viewers. Meanwhile, there are virtual product placements, which can be placed into old TV shows. While viewers may be able to dodge advertising, product placement is proving a tougher foe.