A Brief History

We can all remember the Reese’s Pieces that E.T. the extra terrestrial first ate in Steven Spielberg’s classic film. However, many of us do not know how they got there. Believe me when I say that it was no accident. Sales of Reese’s shot up dramatically after the launch of the film, all because the company agreed with the producers to use the now famous candy.

The insertion of Reese’s Pieces defined product placement as an institution that could greatly affect sales and growth. From that point on, hundreds of movies and television shows (notoriously, the office) have featured branded products, and with the rise of TiVo and other DVR devices, you can be sure that the number will still increase. Nonetheless, the future of product placement is not in prime-time television dramas, but rather the web.

A Branded Internet

We know of today’s internet as being plagued with banner and skyscraper ads. Not to mention the tedious pop-ups that have the tiniest close button, often hidden behind auto-scrolling boxes that make it impossible for you to escape; and those are the ones your pop-up blocker doesn’t catch. In the internet of tomorrow, these ads will be replaced by more subtle and tasteful ones. For example, the home theme of Grooveshark often showcases different products and services. While searching for music on the site, you can simultaneously see news feeds from MSN, the latest bra collection from Victoria’s Secret, or even textbooks from Chegg. Although it may not be product placement as we know and love it, it is just subtle and delicate enough for us to embrace without thinking twice about it.

Into the Future

In the near future, we may also see product placement in popular YouTube videos. Of course people already see the Wonderbread and Miracle Whip brands in Lady Gaga’s Telephone video, but what about the independent producers such as Smosh? Surely advertisers have to be interested in placing their products into videos that have almost 600 million combined views. Maybe the next time Anthony and Ian (creators of Smosh) decide to do a crazy shenanigan, it will be with a Nike baseball bat or an Adidas athletic cup…who knows.

We must also acknowledge that a growing part of America’s youth is participating in online gaming. This is a resource that has been largely untapped. Perhaps soon we will see the walls in the maps of Call of Duty painted with symbols of Coke or Pepsi. Or perhaps companies will continue to ignore this chance to get brand recognition out to the hundreds of millions of video game players worldwide.