Years ago, John Barnard says, a senior Anheuser-Busch executive told him the brand was puzzled that, even though they were not yet in East Asian markets, Budweiser had a high level of brand awareness in the region.
Barnard says that "eventually they tracked it down to the Bud product placements in Hollywood movies… even though Budweiser was not available in those markets, viewers were absorbing the imagery and brand values, and were ready to embrace the brand when it was launched in their market."
A new study by NMG Product Placement, the UK agency Barnard chairs, indicates that product-placed brands may be receiving significant added value in foreign markets where programming is being exported.
NMG examined a number of major UK televised series from 2010 such as Dr. Who, Coronation Street, Waking the Dead and Silent Witness to measure the impact of product placement when those series are licensed and televised in other markets. Just one finding from the study:
"We took a placement for BlackBerry which appeared in an episode of Lewis on May 2nd 2010. We tracked further transmissions of this episode as it appeared around the world. We then estimated the value of each appearance based on local real media costs vs. the value of the initial showing on ITV. The table below shows the additional exposure which occurred by the end of August 2011.
By the end of August 2011 the placement had achieved audiences to the value of an additional 203% of the original ITV value. Half of this value came from repeat showings on the ITV network – but half came from prime time transmissions around the world."
Barnard explains some of the challenges the study faced:
"When a programme is sold overseas it can be very difficult to find out when it is transmitted, but also whether at peak time or not. ETS's database was created specifically to allow entertainment property rights owners to track this data and police their sales contracts. Thus, in our research we were able to follow a specific placement in a specified episode through to its appearance on overseas viewer's screens, even overcoming the change of programme title or episode numbers that occur overseas."
The study noted that "it is extremely rare for the visual part of a scripted programme to be altered, meaning that whatever was seen in the UK transmission will appear wherever the show plays."
"Paid for advertising spots die the moment the break finishes," says Barnard. "Brands embedded in content live on, not only to travel abroad as this research demonstrates, but to cascade through other media as well."
The halo effect may be even greater, as the study did not even account for such other mediums as DVDs, streaming and video sites such as YouTube.
The takeaway for brands, Barnard says, is that this proves an increase in commercial value for any product placement done between an entertainment property owners and an international brands.
This appears to be the first time ever that real numbers (and an ROI) have been put to something product placement professionals have known for years: Product placement in exported programming is an excellent method for laying a brand awareness foundation (an issue previously identified by NMG) in emerging or future markets.