College Reps: The True Meaning of Product Placement

As we know, product placement usually gets associates it with the entertainment industry; the obvious examples are seen in movies, on television, found in song lyrics, or simply connected with celebrities. In movies and television shows, it appears that the most effective uses of product placement are when the presence of the product doesn’t take away from the story.  Although many brands have been using this strategy for years, other companies have started to play off of this model as they determine the new way to practice subtle product placement: college reps.

You might be wondering, what is a college rep? A college, or campus, representative, commonly known as a “college rep”, is a university student directly associated with a brand whose job is to promote that brand around their campus.  Brands who use college reps, such as Apple, Playboy, Red Bull and clothing companies like COAST Apparel and Emma Graham Designs, all realize that their products appeal to the college market. And who better to reach out to the college market than a college student?

It might seem risky targeting college kids, but companies know that this market’s members aren’t as broke as they seem. They know that students are at a point in their lives when they are beginning to make many decisions on their own, including what brands they want to be loyal to.  But like most consumers, college students won’t believe it till they see it—this is why the idea of hiring a student representative, who can effectively promote a brand by simply making others see it.  These reps are subtle, yet influential among their peers; they wear the clothes, they use the products, and they are educated on the brand.  These students are the epitome of a walking billboard, and they have been placed in the heart of their target market. And while they do a lot of promotion, they also report feedback to their brand as a representative for their campus.

The idea of the college rep is a creative and effective strategy that challenges guerilla marketing tactics.  Especially with the rapid growth of the social media scene, it only takes one person with a large network of friends to promote a brand that he or she believes in and if all works out that brand can instantly go “viral”.

-LaPuasa, Dillard, Reinhardt

Wonka Vision

Have you ever gone out and bought something simply for the
fact that you saw your favorite celebrity or athlete endorsing it? Or, have you
watched your favorite show or football team-play on TV and be mesmerized by a

Many companies use product placement on television shows to
advertise their brand. A lot of times, the company will sponsor a certain show,
and in return their brand may be used in various ways throughout an episode; it
may be used as a product in the episode or the company’s commercial will play
during a break. For instance, have you ever wondered why all three judges on American Idol are always sitting behind
large glasses of Coca-Cola? It is not because they cannot get enough
daily-intake of Coke; it is because American Idol is sponsored by the Coca-Cola
brand. Television shows are a major source of advertisement. The reality show The Kardashians is a show focused
around the life of the Kardashian brand and family. They now have a clothing
line through the Sears Company which is marketed on the show, a boutique
clothing and accessory store Dash, and even market perfumes because who doesn’t
want to smell just like a Kardashian!

Product placement is a way for companies to inject their
products to be endorsed by celebrities so the product will then be “cool” and
acceptable for everyone else to buy. The show The Restaurant, on the Bravo network, starring the high-end
restaurant chef Rocco, was paid by the show’s three main sponsors: American
Express, Mitsubishi Motors and Coors Brewing. Bravo
did not pay a single penny of
license fee to have the show made. To justify its investment, each of the shows’
sponsors has received a prominent place in the show: American Express provides
the financing for the restaurant and the show.

Of course, in the early days of television, such
integration between advertiser and show was quite common. Such links persisted
into the 1970s from the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which was entirely funded by Quaker Oats. The
Quaker Oats brand used the movie to promote its new “Wonka” brand of
candy and sweets. Beware and conscious of what you are buying.

- Jordan Hill, Michela Noreski, Ashley Nelson

Walking Billboards

When we first hear the term “product placement” our minds invariably flash to ill-disguised attempts by companies to sling their brands into popular television shows and movies. The movie Transformers 3 was bashed for looking like one giant advertisement for a litany of companies including Mercedes, Nokia, and Apple.

But what about the infamous red carpet? As stars twirl their way down these crimson lanes, they will all face one important question: Who are you wearing? By having a star tout your brand, it raises its stock tenfold. For instance, in 1998, Kim Basinger arrived at the Oscars in an Escada gown raising the then relatively unknown German fashion house’s profile to an international status. Jewelry also has a big stake in the red carpet industry. Jeweler Harry Winston can usually be found dripping off of no less than 20 celebrities, but when rival brand Chopard wanted a part of the red carpet action they offered celebrities Hilary Swank and Charlize Theron a six-figure paycheck to wear a pair of their earrings.

Off the red carpet, celebrities are still walking billboards for fashion companies. Take a look at the Australian footwear brand UGG. After the tabloids started picking up shots of Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson flouncing around town in their boots, sales went through the roof. At this point, almost everyone either has a pair of UGGs or knows at least two people who do. And in this vein, when The Today Show featured a segment about Madonna’s infatuation with designer Steve Madden’s Iglou boots, the company racked in 240 orders for the boots in a grand total of 13 minutes giving the company a whopping $30,000 in profit. 

So what does this all mean? Must our favorite celebs only be seen as walking product placements? Do they not have any taste of their own? Of course, they do. But the next time you run out and buy a pair of shoes because Kim Kardashian was wearing them at her birthday party, think how you might be doing exactly what their marketers intended.

-Jessica Kingman, Alaethea Hensley, and Lauren Phelps

IMC Minus the C: The World Behind IMM

With questions in my mind about product placement and how the book “The Authenticity Hoax” relates, we eagerly write this blog post.  Though there were many great points in the book, we were particularly interested in status seeking and materialism.  Do we want things because we really want them, or do we want things because we perceive them to be desirable?  What is our motive for buying?  Do these $250 Dylan George jeans do the job better than Wranglers… or are we seeking exclusivity? We think the answer has much to do with simple competition.

We don’t think people were born with the inherent proclivity to seek out high priced designer fashions, We think their behaviors were molded by society saying, “These things make you important and envied.”  This brings us to the title of the post, IMM, Integrated Marketing Materialism.
There is nothing wrong with promoting products; however, we have been wondering lately how early certain niche luxury markets are starting to target their audiences.  Of course, children of the stars have custom made Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, but it seems like serious materialism is rapidly affecting younger demographics even outside of Hollywood.

Certain television shows like “Gossip Girl” are aimed at teens, but the characters always wear over the top, Haute couture only available at high end stores for outlandish prices.  Are these television shows telling our teens that it’s time to kick it up a notch and take a trip to Neiman Marcus for some Oscar de la Renta?  You can be the judge of that after you check out this picture of Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl.” Blair has a $2,100 dress by Moschino, $900 Quepi Reci platforms by Christian Louboutin and a $3,400 Chanel patchwork purse.  All together, her ensemble costs $6,400 plus tax and shipping (since most of us do not have access to such retailers).

To people who are remotely knowledgeable about fashion, those products are easy to identify (especially because of the red soles on the shoes).  They are easy to recognize because they have been shoved in our faces for years now.  To our surprise, when we investigated these products, many retailers were sold out!  Obviously, their marketing strategy is working, which one do you think it is?

-Stephanie Bakolia, Claire Outlaw, David Glaubach

Product Placement: The 90’s and Today

Growing up in the 90’s was quite a rich experience. Alongside the bright colors, turtle necks, and psychedelic patterns that we all wore, an amazing new shoe graced the decade that had all of the kids talking. It was marketed as a shoe that could make any kid run faster, jump higher, and practically defeat gravity.

It was the PF Flyer.

These particular shoes were worn by Benny “THE JET” Rodriguez; the star of the movie, The Sandlot, who became the instant role model for every young boy dreaming of a baseball career. While wearing these shoes, Benny caught a baseball that was signed by the world famous player, Babe Ruth; diving for it against the clutches of a monstrous guard dog.
After this movie hit screens, kids in the 90’s just had to get their hands on these PF Flyers. These shoes were marketed as something magical, all because of one slow-motion movie scene. They could not only make you run and jump higher, but these shoes were also instantly associated with the heroic catch made by Benny Rodriguez. If Benny could catch that ball, so could you. But only if you had your pair of PF Flyers.
At the time, kids did not have the knowledge to dissociate Benny’s success among his friends and baseball from mere product placement. The placement of these shoes during such a critical point in The Sandlot was no mistake. Marketers from the brand knew very well what they were doing, and they did it well. The PF Flyers became a staple sneaker for every young kid in the 90’s. Perhaps the successful sales numbers were not solely because of the appearance on Benny Rodriguez’s feet, but it was simple placements such as this that made the brand attractive to families across America.
Today, we see this kind of marketing everywhere we look. Movies and television programs lace their characters and settings with products as a result of eager marketers trying to solicit their image. When the marketer has the opportunity to take advantage of a hopeful, entertained audience through something as simple as product placement, they are diving into more than they may have originally intended. They are not only selling a product, but they are selling a brand message. By choosing which scene, character and setting to place products, the marketers are aiming to take advantage of a relationship that has been built between the audience and the movie. In doing so, they can only hope that the audience will feel so related to the movie that they will be reminded and persuaded about the “value” the product had in the film.
So, would Benny Rodriguez have caught the infamous catch if he was wearing LA GEARS or NIKES? The marketers of PF Flyers want you to think not.

Sally Shupe, Jared Sales, Oliver Evans

The Need for Nielsen

Imagine being chosen at random to watch hours of television and get paid to rate the shows you watch.  Believe it or not, this is exactly how television shows get their ratings.  The Nielsen Company is the leading consumer research group that collects demographic as well as  media consumption data that produce television ratings- hence the name “Nielsen Ratings”.  Nielsen randomly surveys millions of households nationwide to find trends among viewers based on what they are watching.
Ratings may not seem that important to you as the viewer, but to the companies that wish to market their brand, these ratings determine when and where they invest their money.  For instance, say you work for a brand whose target market is young adults; where are you going to place your commercial? Are you going to have it air during the premiere of NBC’s provocative new drama The Playboy Club or the season premiere of FOX’s “High-School-Musical-esque” show Glee? This should be a no-brainer, but for  shows that are in the same genre and marketing the same audience, firms depend on these ratings and the demographic data from “Nielsen families” to assist in making these types of marketing decisions.
So thanks to you, Nielsen Company, for only airing what we want, when we want it.

Ad it all up

The anticipation of the 2011 TV line up is almost complete as we
are wrapping up the first week of an intense premiere season. Coming soon we
will view the Nielson rating which will say which show came out on top with the
most viewers and what networks picked the best shows to debut. However, there is
more to just ratings from a show that make it popular, there are strategies
weaved into placing certain advertisement’s along with the viewers of those

When watching the recent Emmy award-dominating force, Modern
Family, on Wednesday
,  did you notice that actress Sofia Vergara, who plays the role
of gorgeous Gloria Pritchett, debuted her new clothing line at K-Mart for the “
You are Woman, So dress like a Woman line”? Maybe the nostalgic 60
second Pepsi commercial caught your attention while watching the hit show X
Factor on Fox which took the audience on a journey through the
past. The commercial starts off as a new performer about to enter
the stage but before he goes on he picks up a can of Pepsi, takes a swig, then
stares at the logo it then evokes emotion from the new performer and, it
sends him into a tumbling daydream full of Pepsi’s pop stars past commercials,
such as the late Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Mariah Carey to name a few,
then you are left to a blurred vision of this man about to enter the stage and
become his own start like those who drank Pepsi its first big brand spot touting
its connection to the program.

Is it a coincidence for both of these commercials to premiere
simultaneously with these shows? You would be silly to consider such a
thing. Thematically, the spot placement of each advertisement is
seamless. Pepsi really is wondering who will become the next, since they have
promised the winner of The X Factor a starring role in a Super Bowl commercial
this winter.  Sofia Vergara knew she had the “mom” and “working
women” audience during the Modern Family season premiere; ABC and Sofia knew
those mom’s and working women were those who helped nominate her for the 4
Emmy’s this year. It was a perfect fit for one of the highly anticipated comedy
shows to integrate Sofia’s personal achievements.

The Nielsen rating suggests that consumers are watching TV more
than ever before, which makes what they are watching an integral and essential
part of a marketing campaigning for brands. This is there one opportunity this
fall season to make impact on those targeted viewers to entice them to purchase
a can of Pepsi over Coke, or that leopard Mini skirt at K-Mart over the
over-priced department stores. These are ad placement strategies, brands and
networks have merged together to get more bang for your buck.

- Jordan Hill, Ashley Nelson, Michela Noreski