Brand placement in film and TV series
The research program MEDIA (TransCrit, EA 1569) is organizing a one-day workshop on brand placement in film and TV series. The workshop will be held at the University of Paris 8 on Friday 15 June 2018.
Neither an artistic choice nor a coincidence, brand placement started to be used as soon as the movie industry was created but in a moderate way. Due to the rising costs of film production, this financial partnership has progressively become unavoidable to such an extent that a certain number of Hollywood movies and series could not be produced without it. The same applies, perhaps even to a larger degree, to TV shows, even though their production mode sometimes places them side-by-side with regular TV commercials.
Usually considered a win-win association because the brand is likely to boost its sales thanks to its presence onscreen and because films and TV shows benefit from substantial financial contributions, brand placement is in fact more complex than what it seems. While some advertisers have a finger on Hollywood scripts, some brands may not control how the director has decided to place their products. Some filmmakers agree to use plenty of brand placements to fund their films while some resist and condemn the consumer society.
The point of this workshop is to continue and complement existing work on brand placement by introducing new perspectives, especially those focused on the reception of brand placement, its influence on narrative and visual strategies, and the specific case of TV series.
While it is obvious that brand placement has modified films in their content and direction, this has seldom been studied from another perspective than that of marketing strategists. Conversely, cases in which brand placement has missed the mark and discredited the brand have rarely been given specific attention. The same applies to films that express anticapitalistic leanings and expose the consumer society, the directors of which may want to more or less explicitly counter brand placement as a marketing strategy. Additionally, while subliminal marketing is said to have been utilized by the film industry even though it is prohibited by law, it is for that same reason not well documented, and has not been analyzed from a reception studies perspective, or by cognitive science specialists. At a time when the term neuromarketing is often heard, the possibility of exploiting it in the context of brand placement remains largely unexplored.
Finally, the increased popularity of TV series since the new golden age has, potentially at least, dramatically amplified the scope and impact of brand placement by providing the strategy with extra duration (over several seasons) and intensity (in case of binge watching), but also with the possibility of imprinting brand image in the viewers’ brains through repeated exposure. As TV series become the nexus of transmedia story worlds that may include brand products and cement the brand community around a TV channel logo, the scope of placement strategies becomes virtually limitless both in time and space.
The organizers will accept papers on the following key areas:
- Does brand placement apply to film production studios or TV channels? How does transmedia storytelling exploit brand placement to promote cultural productions that come to users under various shapes? What happens when a TV show references another TV show or film? Films and TV series being considered as products, do we have a case of brand placement then?
- Concerning TV series, are there any differences between network productions (interspersed with regular TV commercials) and subscription channel productions?
- What type of (visual) methodology can be used to measure the impact of brand placement? How does brain imagery help? Are there similarities with the field of neurocinematics, which studies the impact of films on the brain?
- How do films or TV series provide specular reflections of marketing strategies, whether to criticize marketing decisions imposed upon them or cast a self-ironic look at their own production modes? What about films or TV series that actually deal with marketing or advertising strategies (for instance, does Mad Men promote the brands Draper works for or demean their reputation?)
- Does brand placement necessarily have a negative effect if it taps into the current popularity of post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction?
- What is the impact of brand placement on narrative strategies, and to what extent has it altered certain narrative techniques or created new ones? What is the state of current knowledge on product-friendly scriptwriting, particularly as far as its ability or obligation to include brand placement is concerned?
- Now that viewers are supposedly active or forensic, does brand placement still work in the good old-fashioned way or does it need to reinvent itself to remain effective?
- Is brand placement not a new area for creativity to express itself? What are the cunning and entertaining strategies invented to circumvent legislation? Does neuromarketing include brand placement?
- What can we learn from the history of brand placement concerning the evolution of strategies depending on media and formats, their ability to adapt to various art forms (literature and painting for instance) and to variable efficiency? Has the passage of time contributed to legitimize or vilify brand placement? Have viewers gotten used to it as unavoidable, grown to appreciate it, or devised ways of expressing resentment?
Organizing committee: Sébastien Lefait and Sandrine Villers, MEDIA, TransCrit EA1569, University Paris 8