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Faculty Recognition: Dr. Brian Gillespie

September 7, 2017 - Alex Solt

Dr. Brian GillespieThanks to DVDs, DVRs and fast-forward buttons, most of us can avoid commercials while watching movies or television shows. But marketing experts have figured out a way to subject viewers to advertisements just the same thanks to product placement, the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) inclusion of a branded piece of merchandise onscreen.

Product placement is nothing new – its use dates back to the earliest days of filmmaking. For example, the 1927 Oscar-winning film Wings contained a plug for Hershey’s chocolate. From E.T. to Iron Man to House of Cards and The Walking Dead, product placement has become ubiquitous in film and television entertainment.

Dr. Brian Gillespie, Assistant Professor of Marketing, is an expert on advertising and social behavior and has focused his research on narrative consumption and decision-making processes, narrative transportation and enjoyment, product placement advertising, and the impact of consumer judgement and decision making on individual and societal welfare. “Product placements incorporated into a script in a very overt manner often lead to negative reactions from viewers because they take away from the viewing experience,” he says.

According to Dr. Gillespie, most advertisers choose product placement as a means of revenue, and product placement spending is projected to exceed $11 billion by 2019. Given that the majority of consumers will skip commercials with available technology, advertising is ever more reliant on the use of effective product placement as a means of selling.

So what makes an effective product placement? Dr. Gillespie’s research suggests that the placement should be inconspicuous and yet still manage to fit into the script’s narrative. The result is often positive for both the consumer, who enjoys the narrative, and the marketer, who receives positive product reactions and consequently increased revenue.

An example of effective product placement is this clip from Portlandia:

The subtler the placement, the less likely the consumer is to feel unwanted persuasion from the advertiser, as shown in this tongue-in-cheek clip from Wayne’s World:

Product placement is now so lucrative that there are two trade associations supporting the practice:  the Entertainment Resource & Marketing Association and the Branded Content Marketing Association.