Six ways virtual product placement (beta) can help advertisers grow their brand

1 September 2022 | By Andrew Cole, Product Marketing Manager

Example of virtual product placement

When I was a kid, I remember when Pizza Hut introduced their famous stuffed-crust pizza. I thought to myself A) this is awesome, and B) it’s going to be years before they find another way to keep making this whole pizza thing even better. Thanks to recent advancements in ad tech, I’m feeling the same way today about product placement in movies and TV.

Pause. Time out... Did my anecdote seem more compelling because of the branded Pizza Hut reference? If so, that’s because studies have shown that 77% of consumers purchase items because of the brand name.1 And natural product placements within content can be a compelling way for brands to connect with customers in an authentic, unobtrusive way.

Because advertisers want to grow their audience and align their brands with premium content in fresh ways, Amazon Ads is now offering a technology-driven form of product integration – virtual product placement – in beta. It’s a turn-key, scalable way for brands to secure in-content exposure via participating streaming titles on Prime Video and Amazon Freevee.

Product placement, of course, has been occurring in popular entertainment for at least a century. Jules Verne named real transportation companies in Around the World in 80 Days as far back as 1872. Wings, the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, featured multiple scenes with Hershey’s chocolate. And it’s hard to imagine how Elliott would have made contact with E.T. if it weren’t for some strategically placed Reese’s Pieces.

Those moments when brands reach their desired audience organically from within the shows and stories viewers are enjoying can be powerful. It’s also a trend that’s currently experiencing a boom in the advertising industry.

In 2021, 34% of US advertisers increased their investment in branded content (inclusive of brand-funded series, in-programme integration, custom co-branded social media content, etc.) year-over-year with an average incremental investment of 23%.2 In addition, two in three video advertisers report using in-programme branding in their marketing efforts with 47% placing their brands in ad-supported content and 35% in ad-free content.3

Virtual product placement is an emerging technology that inserts a digitally rendered product, billboard, or logo into a movie or TV series after it has been filmed. We collaborate closely with our content creators when determining placement locations and available product categories for each participating title. All decisions are made in line with the artistic vision for each movie or series, with a shared goal that placements will not interfere with the story or affect the viewer’s enjoyment.

For those looking to learn more about this new way for brands to make an impact in streaming content, here are six ways that virtual product placement makes a difference.

1. A simpler, flexible product placement solution

37% of advertisers report they spent more of their budgets specifically on in-programme integration in 2021 compared to the previous year, and 40% planned to increase that investment in 2022.3 This focus on branded content is likely to continue its upward momentum as virtual integrations make product placement simpler and more flexible.

37% spending

Advertisers spending more on in-programme integration in 2021 vs. 2020

40% in-programme integration

Advertisers who plan to increase their in-programme integration budget in 2022

Traditional product placement decisions need to be made months or even years before a movie or TV series premieres, notably without the ability to change them at a later date. Virtual product placement streamlines the process by inserting brands into content after production has wrapped.

Gone are the days of needing to furnish physical products, managing the logistics of getting them to set, and overseeing all aspects of the integration. Advertisers benefit because they get the chance to see and approve exactly how their brand will be portrayed prior to going live. Content creators benefit because they get to spend production focusing on what they do best – telling great stories.

Virtual product placement from Amazon Ads allows advertisers to insert their brand into existing fan favourites and anticipated upcoming releases on Prime Video and Freevee, all within one campaign.

2. A strategic complement to traditional video ads

As investment in all video ad formats continues to grow – from $76 billion in the US this year to a projected $125 billion in 20264 – surveys have shown that marketers reflect an openness to embrace opportunities like product placement that can complement their standard campaigns.

$125 billion
projected US video ads spending by 2026

When asked what connected TV content marketing opportunities they consider most relevant for their needs in the next 12 months, 37% of advertisers cited product placement in video content with the top spot being taken by title-level sponsorship of a premium programme.2

Virtual product placement is a strategic addition to a holistic video ad campaign that allows advertisers to optimise along the way. Marketers can execute an integration, take stock of its success within the scope of their overall strategy and calibrate their campaign and future placements accordingly.

Execute a 360° video campaign with Amazon Ads that includes streaming TV ads, virtual product placement and Freevee premium show sponsorships.

3. An opportunity to appear within premium streaming content

Advertisers want access to premium content that gives their brand the chance to align with cultural moments that matter. When asked about the top benefits of participating in branded content, 61% of marketers cited its ability to foster deeper engagement with their intended audience, and 45% said it humanises a brand.2

Top advertiser benefits of branded content

61% foster deeper connection

Its ability to foster deeper connection with their intended audience

45% humanise a brand

Its ability to humanise a brand

Successful product placement is all about reaching a desired audience within the context of a programme while they are fully immersed in the action of their favourite characters and stories. Virtual product placement unlocks this deeper engagement and humanisation across multiple streaming titles and placement opportunities all at once, giving brands a chance to appear within binge-worthy streaming favourites at scale.

And at Amazon Ads, our virtual product placement solution (beta) is all under one roof. We develop and manage the proprietary tech that enables each placement and we provide the content pipeline via our content creators at the award-winning Amazon Studios.

You have the opportunity to show up in 20+ of Prime Video and Freevee’s most popular streaming titles with virtual product placement including Making the Cut, Reacher, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the Bosch franchise and Leverage: Redemption – with more being added in the coming months.

4. An affluent, educated audience primed to purchase

When it comes to product placement, the majority of audiences confirm it prompts purchase activity. 63% of viewers say they feel the urge to buy a product when they see it featured in a TV show and younger (18+) adult viewers lead the pack: Gen Z adults are 20% more likely and millennial adults are 8% more likely than the average viewer to share this sentiment.5

To help advertisers better understand the composition of our unique audience, Amazon Ads collaborated with Nielsen this year to try and understand some key demographic information for an early virtual product placement campaign across multiple titles including Bosch, Reacher, Goliath and The Tomorrow War. Nielsen used their SVOD Content Ratings solution, which monitors subscription-based content viewed through TV screens and incorporates self-reported information from Nielsen People Meter participants.

+45%

Likelihood of households in VPP test audience to make $200k+ annually compared to general consumers

+25%

Likelihood of households in VPP test audience to have attended 4+ years of college compared to general consumers

+54%

Likelihood of households in VPP test audience to have two or more members compared to general consumers

According to the results, we found that the campaign reached a higher income range audience that is 45% more likely to make $200k+ annually, an educated audience that is 25% more likely to have attended 4+ years of college, and an audience that is 54% more likely to have household size of two or more when compared to the general television viewing population.6

Surface your brand to an affluent, educated audience during moments that inspire purchase when you activate virtual product placement with Amazon Ads.

5. An enjoyable experience viewers pay attention to

In today’s divided attention economy, advertisers value solutions that can help their message rise above the fray to connect with consumers. 42% of advertisers say one of the top benefits of participating in content that includes brands is that it helps them stand out or break through the clutter.2

Virtual product placement surfaces brands in environments where audiences are leaned in and paying attention. According to a third-party survey conducted by Kantar in collaboration with Amazon Ads, it does so in a way that preserves the viewer’s enjoyment of their favourite programme.

99%

Viewers in test audience who self-reported a neutral or positive experience to shows with virtual placements

21%

Viewers in test audience who self-reported virtual placements made them enjoy the show much more

Amazon Ads worked with Kantar across a series of studies to measure the impact on audiences for several virtual product placement beta campaigns. 99% of viewers that participated in the studies self-reported a neutral or positive viewing experience during shows that contained placements, with 21% of respondents saying the placements made them enjoy the show much more.7

With virtual product placement, advertisers can cut through the noise to reach a leaned-in audience with integrations that are highly attended and enjoyed by viewers.

6. An effective driver of brand recognition and purchase intent

Product placements are effective at helping advertisers achieve lift in key brand metrics. Some of the most frequently measured indicators include product recall (how well viewers remember a brand after seeing a placement), brand favourability (a consumer’s overall sentiment for a brand), and purchase intent (how likely they are to buy the featured brand).

In our early virtual product placement tests, viewers who were exposed to virtual placements in the campaigns below demonstrated higher product recall and improved opinion about the included product.

Case study: Bubly in Making the Cut

Before VPP
After VPP

Bubly utilised virtual product placement to surface their product across three episodes of Making the Cut on Prime Video. According to a post-campaign brand lift study conducted by Kantar, the placements were effective at driving aided recall, brand favourability and purchase intent for the sparkling water brand.

  • Observed +18.1% lift in aided recall, 6.2X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns 8
  • Observed +6.8% lift in brand favourability, 3.2X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns 8
  • Observed +16.5% lift in purchase intent, 9.2X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns 8

Case study: M&Ms in Bosch and Making the Cut

Before VPP
After VPP

M&Ms executed a virtual product placement campaign across five episodes of Bosch and Making the Cut on Prime Video that featured the packaging of their popular Fudge Brownie flavor. A brand lift study conducted by Kantar found that the placements were effective at driving both favourability and purchase intent.

  • Observed +6.9% lift in brand favourability, 3.3X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns 9
  • Observed +14.7% lift in purchase intent, 8.2X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns 9

Case study: Coffee Mate in Leverage: Redemption

Before VPP
After VPP

Coffee Mate participated in virtual product placement with a campaign that included the branded coffee creamer in three episodes of Leverage: Redemption on Freevee. According to a post-campaign brand lift study conducted by Kantar, the activation improved the exposed viewers’ recall and overall sentiment of the product in addition to their likelihood to buy.

  • Observed +17.1% lift in aided recall, 5.9X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns10
  • Observed +13% lift in brand favourability, 6.2X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns10
  • Observed +11.9% lift in purchase intent, 6.6X over Kantar-measured CPG digital campaigns10

Amazon Ads’ virtual product placement opportunities come with a post-campaign brand lift study fielded by a leading third-party research provider to measure campaign impact.

Conclusion

In a landscape that contains an ever-increasing number of opportunities to capture consumer attention, virtual product placement offers brands a new way to reach viewers from within the streaming TV content that audiences love. It’s a compelling chance for advertisers to grow their brands.

And with more show titles, additional placements and deeper insights functionality being incorporated into virtual product placement in the months to come, Amazon Ads is excited to continue writing this exciting new chapter in streaming TV advertising in collaboration with our advertising customers and content creators.

To learn how your brand can reach new audiences and make an impact with virtual product placement, reach out to your Amazon Ads account executive today.

1 “The Power of Branding in 2021,” Forbes, US, 2021
2 Advertiser Perceptions, Branded Content and Influencer Marketing Report, US, 2021
3 Advertiser Perceptions, Video Advertising Convergence Report, US, 2021
4 eMarketer, US, March 2022
5 Magna and Amazon Ads, The Converging Worlds of Content and Commerce, US, 2022
6 Nielsen Brand Reach Study, US, 2022. This study was conducted using Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings, a syndicated, independent measurement of subscription-based content streamed via TVs and Nielsen People Meter, an opt-in panel of members who register their presence when they watch TV for the purposes of understanding the composition of viewer demographics.
7 Kantar Brand Lift Studies, US, 2022
8 Kantar Brand Lift Study, US, 2021-2022; control = 200, exposed = 201; Kantar 2021 CPG All Digital Benchmark*
9 Kantar Brand Lift Study, US, 2021; control = 139, exposed = 181; Kantar 2021 CPG All Digital Benchmark*
10 Kantar Brand Lift Study, US, 2022; control = 201, exposed = 200; Kantar 2021 CPG All Digital Benchmark*

*All brand lift results represent a 90% significant increase.