How to Do Product Placements Right

With video product placements at YouTube and other sites getting more attention in the media, including a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, marketers should be examining their practices.

The issue is not whether product placements make sense — they do (see previous post). What marketers need to focus on is how to do them right, so they’re effective.

The first emphasis, which should be obvious, must be on entertainment value. Remember, videos distributed primarily through YouTube and other websites rely almost entirely on popularity in order to gain viewers. This is completely different from buying your way in front of an audience, as with conventional television advertising. A video that lacks strong entertainment value simply won’t get played, won’t get positive ratings, and won’t pick up comments — whether it’s sponsored or not.

Certainly, “over-the-top” product-placement videos can succeed. So can poking fun at your own brand or your own mainstream advertising campaigns (within limits, of course). Blatantly subversive approaches, such as the initial “mystery” that surrounded lonelygirl15, also can work.

The products themselves can be placed in videos, promoted with a post-roll citation, or both. With subversive campaigns, the rules are entirely different and both media interest and the “reveal” must be carefully orchestrated.

Either way, keep the time element in mind. The pacing and plotting of a video clip that runs two or three minutes are more like a mini television show or movie than a commercial.

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