Make my Prada clutch RED!

How is China attempting to balance it’s: escalating middle class; government set–economic benchmarks; consumer growth; and the ideals of the Communist Party?

As China enters an era of unprecedented marketing and product placement in movies and television, the attitudes of its people and consumers will alter. As outlined by Wang on Forbes online (2011, Feb):

Today, China’s middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States and is expected to reach 800 million in fifteen years. Full Article

Brands are clamoring to market to this middle class through an exploding movie and television industry. Some of China’s attempts to product place have been obvious and intrusive to narrative, similar to the brand hijacking of daytime television in America. One such example is China’s version of Ugly Betty. The adaptation “Ugly Wudi”, is awash in its main sponsors products–Dove. Levins from the AdAge has described it as “one long product placement.” Full Article

Examples of subtle and sophisticated placements such as: Cadillac’s deal to sponsor a film based on the “Birth of the Party”. Yes, a movie about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party — being sponsored by Cadillac to promote its long-wheelbase SLS series. A deeply, contextual placement that feels disjointed, it must, at some level ignite the battle of party ideology versus contemporary aspirational consumerism.

As an observer this is a fascinating mutation or hybrid of Chinese Communism (its story) and western Capitalism. The potential power of sanctioned placement is, obviously, massive. It could seamlessly integrate into the established party line–message delivery mechanism. Just as in the 1920’s, the American vision of achievement was: delivered through tenacity, hard work and inevitable consumption merged with industrial profitability that equaled success (Fromm, 1955).

Obviously, Chinese officials have been concerned about how all this effects control. Aspirational desire fueled by marketing and ingenious product placement is quite a contagious thing. A growing middle class broadens ideas and questions limitations. Though the party line wishes to dismiss this, as unlike the “Jasmine Revolution” protests in Beijing are doomed to fail as people want peace and stability and government policies are popular. Full article

With a growing middle class comes access to education, technological and financial freedom. All these when mixed with an oppressive state can fuel discontent. Tunisia was pushed to breaking point because of oppression, recession and high youth unemployment. This angered a highly educated, motivated and technology savvy society (Tunisian online news, 2010, March).

Keeping China’s economic engine burning is obviously at the forefront of the governments need to maintain this precarious balance. By observing and learning lessons from the west on how distraction is an excellent antidote to questioning is critical. As yet another consumer focused Chinese version of “The Devil Wears Prada” is released, titled “Color Me Love”. The movie focuses the middle classes attention on the product placements of art (star artist Qi Zhilong and Yue Minjun) alongside brands like Apple, Diesel, Cartier, Versace, Hermes and Prada.

It may be this balanced combination of growth, aspiration, product placement, and party message delivery machine that keep the masses appeased.

I’ll take two and make mine red!


9th global information technology report ranks Tunisia 1st in Africa (2010, March 25). Tunisia online news. Retrieved April 4, 2010 from

Fromm, E. (1955). The Sane Society. New York: Reinhart.

| Leave a comment

Why should movies and soaps have all the fun!

Novels and writers, to a great extent, have avoided the obvious trappings of: additional revenue; cross-pollination marketing; and direct promotion through product placement. Though with the convergence of: new media; literature; technological; keyword referencing and updating, this may all soon change.

In 2006 embedded marketing messages were written into the young-adult targeted novel Cathy’s Book. The writer, publisher and Procter & Gamble conspired to product place Cover Girl products through out the story. Brands have historical been referenced by writers to add texture and framing to characters but in this case products were replaced for paid placement. Originally the protagonist applied Clinique, however this changed to Cover Girl cosmetics. In exchange the book would be heavily promoted through the P&G website, a website directed at adolescent girls. See full article USA Today

The book heightened this connection through a cartoon created by the protagonist, championing the phrase: “Artist! Detective! UnderCover Girl.”

By targeting keyword selection, narratives in books could be updated with specific trend shifts or product launches as online books are purchased. This unlike movies–where saturation is at exhaustion and the noise of promotional clutter is blinding–can reconnect with the intimate space of reading. Where imagination embellishes the written word to develop personal experiences, experiences that rely substantially on the two-way exchange of author and reader. This activating of persuasion (Smith, 2005) in such a private setting is not only cause for alarm but brings into question the degradation of an art form.

One other well documented case was: ‘The Bulgari Connection’ the book caused uproar amongst the literati. The publisher and author received a five figure sum from jewelers Bulgari in exchange for mentioning the company twelve times in the book’s narrative. Full article at Salon

This is not patronage of art or a commission but a weaving of commercial product placement into the fabric of a trusted medium of expression. Leave it to the Soaps I say!

Smith, R.D. (2005). Strategic planning for public relations (2nd edition). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. London.

| Leave a comment

My brand is news!

Product placement harnesses persuasive cinematic techniques, with marketing messages being disguised as information videos that are really elaborate corporate product placements. These videos created for online forums are then shared with news networks and aired to the public as news.

BP as news

Successfully tailoring a message to new audiences requires a profound understanding of the tools and methods developed in traditional media. How a web video is developed could draw upon cinematic history and genre techniques the way in which cinema draws upon literature and the visual arts. As part of its ongoing crisis management plan BP utilizes documentary genre techniques to create a subjective edit of the current situation in its ‘Support for seafood industry’ video. This direct and ‘natural’ look creates a sense of honesty in message. The impact and history of drawing in audiences in this direct manner can be traced back to the ‘direct to camera’ technique of soliloquy, with its audience address and self-address style. As today’s documentary and web video directors employ this technique so did the Ancient Greeks in works by Euripides (Freeman, 2000) and later Shakespeare (Hirsh, 2003). Professionals working with these tools can create emotive pieces for spin, promotion or clarity and can choose how they engage and influence their publics.

Another powerful cinematic technique applied to contemporary communication; the action genre. Republican politician, Tim Pawlenty’s promotional video–to launch his new book–as satirized by Colbert, conjures visions of the movie ‘Transformers’ or I personally expected Bruce Willis to turn to camera ‘Armageddon’ (1998) style. This style taps into the sensory and emotive needs of the audience wear information, and education are blanketed by saturated visuals and platitudes. Cinema, spin and entertainment are all intertwined.

The professionals creating these messages converge diverse communication techniques, fusing, mashing and even creating a patchwork of tactics that are distinct but have a common thread that eventually creates a blanket of communication. Considering the diverse juxtaposition of story, technique and message displayed in patchwork quilts they could be considered societies early mash-ups.

Colbert and political ‘Armageddon’

Freeman, C. (2000). The Greek achievement. New York: Penguin Books.
Hirsh, J. (2003). Shakespeare and the history of saliloquies. London: Associated University Press.

| Leave a comment

Super size my satirist

Product placement encompasses the crude and obvious as witnessed in the contemporary landscape of the Soap Opera to increasingly subtle and sophisticated branding techniques that evoke stronger emotional and cultural connections.

Product placement is not solely represented by industries selling consumeribles, trends or art it is also an integral part of the political environment and the political satirists revenue stream. Be it John Stewart branding his political aspirations within a comedic landscape to Colbert disguising info-mercials amongst his myriad thought provoking interviews.

So when are Stewart and Colbert pushing product? Interviews disguised as authentic pieces that are promoting books to a receptive audience. Promoting and interviewing ‘rival presenters’ to stimulate audience loyalty, and ignite sales through faux feuding as seen with Jon Stewart v Bill O’Reilly. The battle of their respective book launches. To obvious Soap Opera style placement placement–a comical piece on Colbert’s show, is the promotion vehicle for his and Jimmy Fallon’s new ice creams by Ben&Jerry.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ice Cream Hallucination With Jimmy Fallon
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Crossing the fine line between genuine satirical pieces and direct commercialism, a line being traversed in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold by Morgan Spurlock. Have we been super sized?

| Leave a comment

Please, my product is already ‘BLING’

What happens when the aspirational qualities of a product are used to enhance the status of another brand? This can be beneficial for both parties or develop into a point of contention.

For example, a desired ‘status brand’ such as Cristal Champagne that has quietly developed recognition through quality and demand, based on exclusivity may not appreciate obvious, repetitive placement (Homer, 2009). In an interview conducted by the Economist Cristal Managing Director, Frederic Rouzaud, when asked about Hip Hop’s promotion and association to their product simply replied:

“What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it.”

The desire aspect of a brand, such as Cristal Champagne defines its aspiriational brand quality as outlined by Doyle in Doole and Lowe’s book International Marketing Strategy (2008):

Such brands do not simply…deliver…high specification and quality, but also recognize the customer’s status, recognition and esteem that can be associated with the brand.

Demand for Cristal already outstrips supply, as the house only produces its product in years when grape quality is exceptional. In a good year the yield is 400,000 bottles, about 65,000 cases. Also unlike Krug, which aggressively marketed to the fashion industry in the 90’s and other champagne brands target Formula 1, Cristal has opted out of this race. Deciding to supply select exclusive parties during such events, adopting a peripheral marketing approach instead (Bhargava, 2008).

Being branded as the drop of choice by Hip Hop ‘players’ was not their idea of quality brand building and for this reason the comments by Cristal executives angered Hip Hop superstar Jay-Z who called for an outright ban of the product in June 2006. He felt his efforts in promoting the product in his music and videos were not appreciated and the comments offensive. So he has moved on to paid product placement by Armand de Brignac (with new product below), now his drink of choice, as investigated in the Atlantic.

In Jay-Z’s and other Hip Hop performers careers Cristal was used as the status drink to ‘swig’ and during live performances used to ‘hose down’ female talent on stage. Offensive Rouzaud’s comments may have been to the Rap community but from a brand perspective so was the degrading use of the product.

I miss my drop

Not all love is lost for Cristal in the Hip Hop community as witnessed by Puff Daddy’s Super Bowl celebrations in 2008 with his exclusive Cristal fueled event. Two years is obviously long enough for a boycott of a quality product. Jay-Z and Puff originally stood together on the boycott. Though in recent years both men have had polar marketing trajectories.
Puff has rebranded himself as an elegant ‘player’ channeling a more refined man with a hint of the truly sophisticated Sidney Poitier (Now that’s talent!). To his empire Puff has added a line of quality bespoke clothing made in Italy and England (his urban wear labels are long established). Jay-Z on the other hand has still cultivated the urban ‘player’ made good. He can afford the dapper lifestyle and has been blessed with a successful, bootylicious wife (Beyoncé) but remains hood to the heart.

The interesting question is was racism part of the disagreement? I believe the disregard for the essence of the product, in this particular case, adds great weight to the discussion. Please don’t ‘product place’ for ME, my product is already ‘BLING’.


Bhargava, R. (2008, February 11). Trendspot: Peripheral marketing. Influential Marketing Blog. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from

Doole, I. & Lowe, R. (2008). ‪International marketing strategy: analysis, development and implementation (5th E). London: Cengage Learning EMEA.

Homer, P. M. (2009). Product placements: The impact of placement type and repetition on attitude. Journal of Advertising. V38: N3, p21-32. M.E. Sharpe Inc.


Sizzle and Smoke

Corporations and creatives are still encouraging woman through product placement to smoke by using visually oppressive tools. Tapping into insecurities of body image and the aspirational qualities of independence and glamour. From the perennially edgy publications of French and Italian Vogue come editorial upon editorial of uber-chic females musing in a ‘post-coital’ gaze whilst puffing away. This–in the same way as the alcohol industry–is influenced by a complex web of corporate ownership leading to cross-pollination of industry promotion. This form of product placement is especially heinous as tobacco consumption by females is still very high as outlined by Samet and Yoon in Women and the Tobacco Epidemic—Challenges for the 21st Century.

Stylists and photographers add textual layers of artistic merit and on-trend seduction that is difficult to combat once the, especially young, viewer is entranced. A fascinating study conducted in Switzerland examined techniques and approaches on motivating young woman to veto smoking. The study Aging Images as a Motivational Trigger for Smoking Cessation in Young Women aged the images of the young woman participating in the study, as they smoked (love it!). The abstract outlines:

We concluded that aging images are a promising intervention for reaching young women and increasing their motivation to stop smoking.

Taking this data into consideration it becomes quite obvious how the antithesis happens in fashion editorial. Note: Fashion label advertisements don’t show smoking, it is the magazine editorial that perpetuates the behaviour. If aging images repulse young females from their habit and/or addiction then nubile, thin beauties are the equivalent of a ‘moth to the flame’.

This targeted form of product placement highlighting physical appearance issues permeates the movie industry. There are multitude examples of–obvious–smoking endorsement in movies but I wanted to focus on one in particular, Avatar. Interesting how the disconnected intellectual ends up being magnetically cool. I think the Dr’s character warrants a ‘light,’ yet it seems cinema, photographer and visual arts invariably slide done the artery of tempting tobacco.

As Mr. Cameron stated in the NY Times:

Ms. Weaver’s character, Grace Augustine… doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in video games.

True, true but its still charismatic Ms Weaver–from Aliens to Avatar–Cameron obviously adores sultry Sigourney with a cigi in hand.

PS. Notice how hard it is to find a still of the smoking scenes online? Count on 20th FOX!

Disclaimer: I adore fashion and I enjoyed Avatar

Samet JM, Yoon SY. Women and the Tobacco Epidemic—Challenges for the 21st Century. The World Health Organization; Washington, DC, USA: 2001.

| 1 Comment

I said “Slizzard my tween” Cabello!

Slizzard: drunk, tipsy, smashed (holla!)

Product placement is such an inspired or pervasive marketing tool. Regardless of ones view it has permeated society to the point of inebriation. As outlined by Hudson and Hudson (2006) product placement has evolved into a complex and sophisticated tactic of integrated marketing:
Branded products are no longer just ‘placed’; they are woven into entertainment content making a stronger emotional connection with the consumer.

With increased restrictions placed on corporations (eg: tobacco and alcohol) they need to find dynamic, inventive and clandestine ways to market their products. This has evolved into a pernicious form of product placement. Corporations influence recreational behaviour through popular music videos that laud drinking to the youth market.

From binge drinking teenagers and young adults. To tweens watching music videos initiating them, early on, into the collective cool of “gettin’ slizzard”.

Over the course of my blog I want to discuss various manifestations of product placement, and while I swig on a beer I thought this was the perfect place to start!

Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
When we drink, we do it right, gettin’ slizzard
Sippin’ sizzurp in my ride (in my ride) like Three 6
Now I’m feelin’ so fly like a G6

Check out the video almost 63 million views!
Now Far East Movement is signed to Interscope records who is owned by Universal Music, who is owned by Vivendi SA, who also happens to own Seagram Company Ltd (the largest distiller of alcohol beverages in the world) that has now become Pernod-Richard. The name change has allowed for a distancing of the Seagram/Universal brand from the music industry that it influences. If you ‘like’ you can follow the trail through the following sites:

Seagram website
Business Publications
Independent UK
As outlined in Vivendi’s 2009

Annual Report:
Music publishing rights and catalogs include music catalogs, artists’ contracts and publishing rights acquired in December 2000, as part of the acquisition of The Seagram Company Ltd.

Match this collective power to the signed stable of artists that include Lady Gaga the blanket influence is astounding. I do now wonder how much of her first single “Just dance” was artistic vision or corporate placement. Why show a label when you can influence and market a culture (Parker-Pope, Feb 2008).

I’ve had a little bit too much, much
All of the people start to rush, start to rush by
How does he twist the dance? Can’t find a drink, oh man….

Control your poison babe, roses have thorns they say
And we’re all getting hosed tonight, oh oh oh-oh

Hudson, S. & Hudson D. (2006, June). Branded Entertainment: A New Advertising Technique or Product Placement in Disguise? Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 22, Numbers 5-6, pp. 489-504(16). Routledge.
Parker-Pope, T. (2008, Feb). Under the Influence of…Music? The New York Times online.
Retrieved from NY Times

| 1 Comment