From February 2011, TV programmes made for UK audiences were able to contain product placement as long as they complied with Ofcom’s rules. To date, the majority of product placement deals have been linked to sponsorship or advertiser-funded programming.
Digital experts MirriAd have developed technology that allows for the embedding of personalised product placement when viewing television programmes on demand.
In a media first, MEC UK teamed up with MirriAd, STV and the government’s Technology Strategy Board (whose remit is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation), to promote this by building a working prototype of personalised product placement technology.
This technology provides new opportunities and implications for brands and media owners within the space of viewers’ trusted TV programmes.
MEC’s involvement in Project Slipstream demonstrates MirriAd, STV and the Technology Strategy Board's commitment to continuously look for media channels which offer relevance and effectiveness to clients’ communications requirements. It has also supported industry reputation by showing a point of view on the future of the media landscape.
Imagine a new mum is watching her favourite TV programme online and one of the characters has a pack of nappies in their bathroom. Now imagine that a young man is watching the exact same programme and scene but sees shaving foam instead of the nappies. This would be an example of personalised product placement, where viewers see product placements relevant to them based on demographic information held by broadcasters.
During the testing phase of this technology MEC conducted consumer research specifically to understand the impact of personalised product placement on viewers. A range of different research methodologies were used including online surveys, eye-tracking and face-to-face interviews.
The aim of this project was not to replicate research that already exists on product placement; so a great deal of work went into exploring existing studies in addition to consulting broadcasters, other Group M agencies, the IPA and Thinkbox.
Key contacts were also consulted within MEC’s Audio Visual department for their input on how MirriAd and broadcasters can build a realistic and workable trading platform for product placement.
The aims of the research were to:
• Evaluate if viewers notice brands in TV programmes and how they react to them
• Assess the impact of personalised product placements on key metrics such as brand awareness, consideration and image
• Assess the impact of brand usership on placement recall vs. non-users
• Understand attitudes towards product placement in general and its impact on the viewing experience
• Explore how consumers feel about seeing relevant product placements
The methodology involved placing eight MEC UK client brands within an episode of Coronation Street, with three brands appearing twice. To explore addressability, MirriAd, STV and the Technology Strategy Board focused on gender – though it is possible to target on a wide range of criteria ranging from demographics to buying habits.
The quantitative research: 1,500 respondents were shown one of three Coronation Street episodes (one with no placements, one with male orientated placements, and one with female orientated placements). This control and test approach was used to assess the two test cells for uplifts in key metrics vs. the control cell.
The qualitative research: 12 respondents were shown one of two Coronation Street episodes (one with male orientated placements and one with female orientated placements) on a laptop screen. Tobii X2 Eye Tracker technology was used to accurately measure gaze and fixation levels.
A follow-up diagnostic interview was then administered to capture respondents' viewing experiences and explore attitudes towards product placement.
Research results show that brand engagement exists for those who notice product placements and it does not spoil their viewing experience. Personalised product placements did achieve uplifts in awareness, especially among brand users, and among the brands shown twice. It can also act as a purchase prompt for brands. Relevance is key as viewers would rather see brands they might buy than not.
Viewers believe that product placement adds to programme realism – they expect to see the brands they interact with every day in the programming they watch.
Viewers do not question how broadcasters will be able to target them with relevant placements and say they are used to being targeted in this way online based on their internet behaviour. This means that broadcasters are in a position of trust with how they use viewer data and with ensuring that programme content is not compromised by advertiser need.
Since its completion Project Slipstream has been presented at the 2013 MRG Conference and will feature in an MEC client newsletter.
It is a demonstration of MEC’S commitment to innovation, collaboration and effectiveness, showing the agency has a strong point of view on the future of the media landscape.