Nielsen’s Year-End Product Placement List Proves Little About Product Placement

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It’s the time for end of the year lists and Nielsen’s “Tops of 2011: Advertising” collection is certainly worth a look.

The media tracking firm covers everything from Volkswagen’s Little Darth Vader Super Bowl phenomenon to product placement. Nielsen says these “best-liked ads reflect the enduring value of traditional ad elements that have withstood the test of time – strong creative, simple and engaging messaging, and a solid emotional connection.”

The Nielsen charts that caught our eye were the two pertaining to product placement, because both tell us almost nothing about measuring product placement except to underscore how nobody can properly measure product placement.[more]

Nielsen’s first list of the Top 10 Most Remembered Branded Integrations contains Purell, Twister, Ferrari, Subway, Dungeons & Dragons, Rolex, Snapple, Scrabble and Monopoly.

The placement with the highest recall index (270 with 100 being “average”) was for hand sanitizer Purell during the show The Big Bang Theory.

Forgetting all about the Apple MacBook sitting on the desk in the scene, Purell’s role hardly seems all that valuable… or memorable. A look at the rest of the list may prove why. Of Nielsen’s the ten most remembered branded integrations of 2011, three were in one show: The Big Bang Theory. The third most recalled brand? Twister in The Big Bang Theory:

The sixth most recalled is Dungeons & Dragons from, yes, The Big Bang Theory.

While these placements were all memorable, the fact that one show accounts for so many of the year’s top brands may say a lot more about the audience for that particular program than the memorability of the placements themselves.

When it comes to the fifth most recalled brand integration of the year, a little front loading was necessary. Nielsen’s data show Subway scored 206 from its placement in in episode of Chuck in May. But what the results don’t note is that Subway was involved in saving the program back in 2009.

In a very public campaign, hardcore fans trying to save the show enlisted Subway as a major sponsor (in return for several prime product placements). During the “Save Chuck” drive, the show’s star even put together a viral video featuring fans invading a Subway shop in an effort to convince the brand to sign on to the show.

Now, when it came time for an audience to recall a brand from a show, Subway already had a solid history in place with an audience that likely knew it as their show’s savior. (If anything, that Subway only finished fifth, well behind a random mention for hand sanitizer, should considered a bit of diss.)

It should also be noted that the list of most recalled placements was restricted to dramas and sitcoms. Nielsen’s second list is the Top 10 Primetime Programs with Product Placement Activity. Nine of the ten shows making that list are reality programs. Perennial top show, American Idol, again placed first for 2011. But the list counted just total number of occurrences. One Coca-Cola cup on-screen equals “an occurrence.”

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