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Types of Product Placement

There are many ways of using product placement on TV: it can be physical, virtual, seen but not used, mentioned, contextual or even unbranded. Here are some examples.

Physical or Virtual Product Placement?

Products can of course be physically placed, interacted with or mentioned during the production process. And once this has happened, content and brand are pretty much bound together wherever the programme is subsequently broadcast or streamed. This is the process of most placements to date.

An alternative approach to this is virtual placement as pioneered by companies such as MirriAd, which partners with broadcasters and brand owners to place products digitally into existing media content. This enables one item of content to be associated with different brands across territories and at different times. It also allows placement to happen after production.

Both approaches have their advantages and also can be used at the same time.

For example TRESemme partnered with Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model on Sky Living and used a combination of virtual and actual placement and achieved great results. By conducting a wave of research before and after the PP, it was possible to isolate the effect it had separate to the spot and sponsorship. The two main shifts were in “make professional products” and “is salon quality”. The inclusion of PP strengthened perceptions of TRESemme over and above the sponsorship effect.


1. Product used onscreen

Samsung and The X Factor. Samsung was seamlessly integrated into the show’s storyline, putting devices into the hands of the talent and judges and producing exclusive content illustrating the product benefits and innovation in a human way.  All content existed across multiple platforms, so no matter how or where the audience chose to engage with X Factor - On YouTube, Facebook, the X Factor site, the app or on the show itself – Samsung were a part of their experience. The campaign created a 19% increase on the measure of ‘Premium’ among X Factor viewers and it helped make Samsung the number 1 handset provider in the UK.

Types of pp demo
Nokia Lumia featuring in Channel 4's Hollyoaks

Nokia placed their Lumia phones into episodes of Hollyoaks on Channel 4 and E4 over a period of 4 months. Nokia say that the product placement led to a 5% increase in viewers agreeing that Lumia would “fit into their everyday lives”. Research also showed a 36% increase among Hollyoaks viewers describing the Lumia as “best for my social networks.” 

Types of pp jamie oliver sains
Jamie Oliver appearing in Sainsbury's TV spots

Yeo Valley’s association with Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals on Channel 4 improved brand consideration among viewers, 86% of whom agreed that the product placements fitted well with the series. 52% of viewers said that they could buy Yeo Valley next time they bought yoghurt. The research showed that before consumers were exposed to the product placement, 18% agreed strongly that they would trust the brand for frequent use. This figure increased to 23% after viewers watched the show. Pre-viewing, 17% of consumers deemed it a brand worth its price, while after watching the programme that proportion grew to 21%. 

2. Product seen clearly but not used.

It is part of the set and fits with the scene. For example, Kenco Millicano coffee on Sunday Brunch or Nestle Dolce Gusto placing their new coffee machine in the background of the cooking section on This Morning on ITV, whilst Karcher Pressure Washers digitally inserted their products into episodes of Tommy’s Fix It Yourself on Discovery Real Time

3. Verbal mention. 

It could be that your product is not seen but has a verbal mention. It must be appropriate and fit with the scene for e.g. “May I have a glass of Perrier please?”

A great example of this was Visa sponsorship of A League of Their Own on Sky 1. Visa was looking for innovative new ways to bring its brand campaign ‘Flow Faster with Visa’ featuring Usain Bolt to life. As part of the sponsorship of series 5 of the series, a segment was introduced within the body of the show called ‘the Visa Sprint Challenge’. Each week, Bolt gave his top speed tips before celebrity guests took part in the challenge. Through these verbal mentions and the association with speed, Visa achieved outstanding results.

Elsewhere, Skype had a PP only deal with Million Pound Drop on Channel 4 for a verbal mention. Skype provided the technological platform to allow people to join the show

4. Music

Where the latest tracks can feature as background music. An example of this was Ministry of Sound’s album Marbella Sessions which featured in two special episodes of The Only Way is Essex on ITV2 in June. The shows featured the cast attending the launch party for the album and music and branding from the album appeared on screen. The activity was supported by a licensing agreement, social media activity and an advertising campaign.

5. Contextual

This could be a digital poster placement in a natural setting within the programme

Types of pp tresemme stv brave
'Our Scotland' - two one minute spots that ran in ad breaks to promote the Pixar film Brave

Walt Disney’s Pixar and STV. In order to get Scottish people excited about the movie release Brave, they funded two one minute programmes called ‘Our Scotland’. Within the programme, Brave film posters were digitally placed into the background. It was a perfect environment to promote the movie and the box office figures were 5 times the average for Scotland.  

Another example of this was when Pedigree Dentastix digitally inserted a poster into an episode of A Different Breed on Sky 1. The posters appeared on bus sides in a completely natural way in a perfect environment for the brand.

6. Unbranded 

Types of pp this morning bq
The B&Q kitchen as featured in This Morning

B&Q provided the kitchen for This Morning. They also had a licensing deal so they were able to use the This Morning logo and were able to promote their PP in their own marketing.

Often, product placement forms part of a sponsorship or AFP.

New Look Style the Nation was an advertiser funded programme on T4 that included product placement. The placement involved verbal references, store shots, a branded title sequence, catwalk clothes, New Look Group’s Creative Director on the judging panel and the competition winner becoming a stylist for New Look. 

Spontex sponsored Trollied on Sky1. The products were fully integrated into the programme as they featured as part of the set backdrop but also the characters were seen chatting whilst stacking shelves with Spontex.  The deal also included licensing, on-pack and online activity.

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