Special Session Summary When Brands Are Starsbexploring Consumer Response to Product Placements


Michelle R. Nelson (2003) ,"Special Session Summary When Brands Are Starsbexploring Consumer Response to Product Placements", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, eds. Punam Anand Keller and Dennis W. Rook, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 204.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, 2003     Page 204



Michelle R. Nelson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Product placements and brand contacts have appeared in films since at least 1940 and are increasingly used across media including novels (e.g., Bulgari Connection), videogames, music (e.g., My Adidas) and television. Seeking to overcome budget constraints, fragmented media audiences, and technological advances which allow consumers to zip, zap and circumvent advertising, marketers are looking to product placement practices as a targeted and cost-effective way to reach consumers. Despite its popularity, only recently have academics studied this phenomenon. Research to date has focused on three areas: (1) descriptive/content analyses; (2) consumer attitudinal responses; and (3) consumer response to gauge effectiveness of brand placements through experimental research.

This session brought together leading researchers in product placement to further theoretical understanding of placement effectiveness, gain insight into consumer meanings derived from the practice, and explore diverse approaches and methodologies for product placement research. Each of these papers focused on the role of media context in product placement. Despite the obvious, no published research to date has systematically examined the role of media for product placement. Each paper in this session takes a different epistemological, ontological and methodological approach to examining mediaByet they all consider how 'an active consumer’ interacts withBor makes meaning ofBbrand placements and the medium.

Gould and Gupta reported results of their poststructuralist study in which 100 marketing students watched one game show and wrote an essay in which they discussed the products placed. They showed that the audience’s relationship to the game show medium is crucial to understanding the meanings of products placed within this medium. Three major interlinked themes were identified: (1) consumer reflexivity, identification and fanship, (2) game shows as product-appropriate showcases, and (3) the intertextual linkages to marketing and game shows as a medium.

Russell and Stern discussed how the literary tradition offers insight for understanding how consumers 'read’ media and the products placed within. In an experimental study, they investigated the moderating role of gender on consumer reactions to television programs and product placements within those programs. They showed that differences i the focus of male versus female respondents’ thoughts were likely to occur because of gender differences in textual interpretation of television programs. In addition, they found significant gender differences in viewer responses: whereas women accepted the placed products as evidence of a show’s realism, men suspected that the products were evidence of the sponsors’ manipulative marketing tactics.

Finally, Lord and Gupta utilized psychological theories and methodologies to propose and test a conceptual framework for understanding product placement effectiveness. According to theories of context effects, they demonstrated a number of findings related to the impact of placement characteristics (prominence, valence), product involvement, and viewer response (cognitive and affective involvement in the movie) upon the 'movie-placement fit’ (appropriateness, realism) and on dependent variables for measuring effectiveness (recall, brand attitudes, and purchase intention).

Shared themes across papers related to the impact of consumer empathy (empathic processing) and audience identification as related to the medium and products. The session also offered a number of 'firsts’ in this area, including different types of audiences (men, women) and different media (game shows, TV sitcoms, movies). Each of these studies furthers our understanding of how consumers 'read’, understand, or process products placed within varying forms of media.

Discussion among audience members and session presenters offered ideas for future research, including investigation of consumer response to product placement among different 'interpretive communities,’ including age, socio-economic, and cultural groups. Further investigations might explore rich meanings derived from brand relationships Bthe intertextual meanings between media and brandsBand expand investigation across additional types of media.



Michelle R. Nelson, University of Wisconsin-Madison


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30 | 2003

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