Getting value from product placement

This is the first article in a series on the role of product placement in Australia. In this instalment Michael Byers discusses how to measure the value of your product placement. 

 

Product placement is quite distinct from branded entertainment in that the product, or service, is depicted as itself and generally uses entertainment, whether it be a TV show or movie, as a vehicle. At its best, placement will provide an excellent demonstration of the benefits of the product yet, at times, the product may be left in the background, largely unnoticed and lacking attention.

When looking at product placement in Australia, there’s really no better place to start than with MasterChef Australia. Developed for Channel Ten, and first airing in 2009, the program became a resounding success, rewriting the rulebook on product placement.

As an independent branded content measurement company, we’ve analysed product placement within the MasterChef finale programs from 2009 to 2012.

It wasn’t the first cooking show to feature products, though – think Ready Steady Cook and Huey’s Kitchen, both Channel Ten – but it was the first to air during primetime. Adopting a British format with a dash of Big Brother and some game-show dynamics, MasterChef was presented as light, family entertainment in an early evening timeslot.

With soap-opera frequency it aired six nights a week, giving the audience plenty of time to get to know a carefully selected array of contestants, and adopted a format largely untested in Australia, complete with inexperienced presenters. A gamble, yes, but one that paid off handsomely for Channel Ten as it struck a chord at a time when viewing habits were changing and social media was on the rise.

The Australian product placement model

Product placement is always an attractive avenue for brand promotion, offering the potential for improved dovetailing with specific content and the ability to forge strong emotional connections with the audience.

With an audience of almost two million per night, MasterChef gave birth to a new realm of advertising and product placement. Over 100 brands have been affiliated with the program, including major sponsors paying approximately $40 million per season, with everything from pasta shells to refrigerators being seen on the show.

As partner products supported their placement with paid media and looked to leverage their investment, the network was able to offer a complete package, across multiple platforms that struck gold and generated funds way beyond the usual stream of advertising revenue.

Australian product placement model

Traditionally product placement would be supported by TVCs, yet MasterChef launched as social media was gaining increased consumer relevance and so extending viewer engagement beyond the traditional TV timeslot. The growth of the online community, through the website and Facebook page, encouraged greater inclusion and accessibility for the audience, with the Facebook page alone now having over a million ‘Likes’.

In addition to the online community, the show’s print magazine launched in 2010 with initial circulation being more than double the quantity expected. This suite of interconnected platforms adopted by the show, and the depth of their combined reach, presented product partners with unrivalled opportunities.

But what of the products?

Coles credited MasterChef with dramatic surges in sales of meat and other ingredients featured in the show’s recipes – in some cases reporting sales spikes of up to 1400%.

Massive sales increases on everything from rabbit to spices, even lamb brains and pink ling, went up after being featured on the show. The supermarket then went on to leverage its relationship with MasterChef with its ‘Feed Your Family for Under $10′ TV commercials, fronted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone.

But what of the others?

Generally there are four types of products used on the show: ingredients, kitchen equipment, retail partners and support partners (cars, airlines, communication devices and so on) but it needs to be remembered that inclusion doesn’t guarantee quality exposure.

In the finale of the 2011 series, 94% of exposure value was delivered to the 15 kitchen equipment brands, yet half of this exposure went to a single brand.

But it’s not just about exposure, it’s the quality of the exposure. Ingredients, particularly those that occur in multiple recipes such as milk and butter, receive good exposure yet it’s the ingredients that ‘make’ a particular recipe that receive sales-building exposure and the not-too subtle reminders of the retailers, such as Coles, which supply these special ingredients.

Support partners include transportation and telecommunications and although exposure may be more limited compared to that of the kitchen equipment, so the competing products may be fewer too. Telstra’s T-Hub only received 1% of the total exposure in the 2011 finale, yet the constant exposure and repeated usage demonstrations throughout the series were a contributing factor in tripling the install base during that year.

Measuring placement

The key to successful placement is not only in gaining strong and relevant exposure but being able to engender audience engagement. But let’s start with the exposure they receive.

Showbrands’ measurement is based on the cost of a 30-second commercial placed into the ad break on a national buy rate. So, one second in the program is worth one second in the ad break. But not everyone agrees, so now we come to the multiplier question. Naturally the producers consider the in-program placement much more valuable than an ad, especially as many of us can now skip the ads. Creative directors who have sweated over the development and production of their 30-second idea might disagree. But how much more valuable is the key question?

According to Steve Allen of Fusion Strategies, a second of exposure in the program is valued by sponsors “at the cost per second of what you’d pay for an ad, multiplied by three,” he told MediaWatch.

Nine Network’s Adrian Swift thinks otherwise: “In the UK, where this is quite sophisticated now, brands generally put a multiplier on the value of program integration of seven times the value of a spot ad, so in other words the cost that a broadcaster can charge for integration can be up to seven times what they would charge for a 30 second spot ad,” Swift told MediaWatch.

But 30 seconds is not 30 seconds.

First, brands are rarely in shot for more than a couple of seconds of exposure and, second, they might be in the background. Consequently, we weight the quality of the exposure.

Building the Scanpan brand

Scanpan has been a MasterChef partner since the beginning, and in the 2012 series maximised their exposure through the placement of a range of cookware products. Even with ratings for the show having dropped and the number of participating brands increasing, Scanpan’s prime exposure ensured quality coverage and the resulting value increasing fourfold. In 2009 the Scanpan range received over $300,000 worth of exposure. By 2012 this had risen to over $1.3 million.

Scanpan

Why you should measure your investment

The measurement of placement is vital not only to justify budgets, but also to fine-tune campaigns and ensure they’re reaching and engaging with their audience in a cost effective way. In demanding hard data on branded value gained, the brand owner gains an independent and unbiased evaluation that reveals the true return on investment figure based on their own cost of involvement.

 

Plug: Marketing has teamed up with Showbrands to offer two exclusive resources containing vital information for brand managers and media agency teams involved, or considering being involved, in product placement activity.

Details and pricing information for ‘The Product Placement Handbook’ and ‘Brand Value Analysis Report’ can be found here »

 

Michael Byers
BY Michael Byers ON 26 March 2013
Michael Byers is managing director of Showbrands, specialising in branded entertainment creative strategy, measurement and project management. Twitter: @Showbrands