Marketing Through the Looking Glass

The fictional roommates"'Brand integration' and 'immersive' commercial environments" are becoming more commonplace, as the range of media formats and platforms widens and viewers can increasingly avoid commercials, reports Gloria Goodale. This "blurring of story and selling" goes beyond traditional product placement. For example, actors in the MySpace web video series "Roommates," which is sponsored by Ford and a contact lens company, use "their characters' online profiles to chat with fans and dish out information about their clothing and other products." Marketing professor David Howard says the trend creates "more potential for manipulation." In one instance, amateur-seeming web videos "depicting cellphone signals powerful enough to pop corn kernels ... ignited a flurry of news coverage about the topic of possible brain damage." But the videos were "subtle" ads for wireless headsets. Another online video, of a girl "leaping to her feet to make a spectacular catch at a minor-league baseball game" and then returning to her seat, next to a bottle of Gatorade, "easily passed as an actual event." Instead, it was a Gatorade ad, which played on television (identified as an ad) after the online version had generated enough "buzz." Global spending on all types of product placement is expected to nearly double, "from $3 billion in 2006 to $5.6 billion by 2010."