The Fun of Product Placement

I have never been a big fan of product placement, as it is even harder to measure than public relations itself. Okay, great, you get a client's product on a television show, but does that really bring in shoppers? Does that move product off the shelf?

A recent freelance project that I worked on, the client was very hyper about product placement, particularly on primetime. The person that ran the account claimed to have a ton of Hollywood connects - claim is the operative word here - but the product never made in on television, which is why that his agency lost the project to a New York public relations firm.

Why was the client so hyper about product placement? He was convinced that it worked because his prior company's products were on Friends, and his New York public relations firm had tons of product placements on primetime television shows. But, as an insider told me, if the company had been in the press more, and spent less worrying about being on television, the sales might have been better. She had noted that the best thing for the company was that Oprah took an interest in the product, and that had less to do with the PR firm and more to do with luck and a good press story.

Anyway, in Ad Age, Barry Diller sorta dumped on product placement as nothing "particularly effective."

Firms pay big bucks for product placement, and I wonder if the money might be better spent on guerilla marketing or other public relations ideas.