Product Placement: The Interactive Choice

Product placement: a concept familiar to us from the movies. In one story, James Bond will be driving a Lotus. In the next, he might be behind the wheel of a BMW. In “Back to the Future 2,” Pepsi logos were ubiquitous.

Theoretically, the Internet, too, could be one big product placement opportunity. In reality, though, the fact that product placement possibilities are free means that they generate no trust in the viewers – they have no meaningful placement connection – whereas James Bond’s connection with the vehicle product, for example, might inspire fans of 007 to consider purchasing the car.

So what new marketing trends can we expect to see on the Internet? Perhaps a harbinger of the latest is the interesting site Epidemic.com. Launched in late 1999, this site is based on the idea of letting consumers do the advertising and rewarding them for doing so. Sound intriguing? Here’s how it works.

If you send emails, and I imagine you do, you are in this product’s target group. Before sending an email, you sign up for the service. This enables you to survey a range of advertisements and choose one that you then drag into your email and send to others. So, if you know that your friend is having problems with his girlfriend, for instance, you could add the 1-800-Flowers.com advertisement to your next email to him.

And what do you get out of this? Money. For every advertisement you send. The concept is that the consumer spreads the advertising news, not the advertiser. This consumer-driven principle is based on true interactivity, up to the point where you send the email.

Another concept dependent on interactivity is wotch.com. This idea rewards the user with visuals, not money. By visiting the site, you can download a range of funny little illustrations known as “wotches.” When you have installed the application wotch.com offers, you receive an illustration. Then every time you link to one of the ten sites the application suggests, a funny new element is added to your wotch. The user is rewarded for using the application.

New concepts are finally appearing on the Internet as potential replacements for banner ads, which everyone agrees are ineffective.

We are moving from the passive use of the Internet as an advertising medium to an interactive (two-way) one. The day we see truly interactive advertisements on the Net will be the day decreasing banner ad click-throughs will no longer be an issue. A clever way of handling product placement might be the way to address this issue.

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