New Brand Worlds: A Comparison of Student Attitudes Towards Brand Placements in Four Media Vehicles

Federico DeGregorio, The University of Akron


Discussions of brand placement in the popular press and academic literature tend to predominantly revolve around film. However, recent content analytic work (e.g., de Gregorio and Sung 2004; Ferraro and Avery 2000; Friedman 1991) demonstrate that brand appearances within other media are prevalent and continue to increase in incidence as time progresses. Brand placement in other media is not a recent phenomenon. Advertisers produced and sponsored television shows in the 1950s such as Texaco Star Theater (McCarthy 2001), the Sega video game company placed Marlboro ads in its early racing games (Emery 2002), and a song from 1903 entitled "Under the Anheuser-Busch" asked listeners to "Come, come, drink some Budwise [sic] with me" (Agenda, Inc. 2003). Although not voluminous, there has been a steady stream of academic research since the late 1980s on the strategy of brand placement. Although scholarly brand placement research has been ongoing since the late 1980s (Steortz 1987), it has largely focused on the context of films, with a dearth of investigations of the practice in other media. Some commonly investigated factors have included: extent and type of placement (e.g., Devanathan et al. 2002; Sapolsky and Kinney 1994), audience recall and recognition of placed brands (e.g., Gupta and Lord 1998; Ong and Meri 1994), and qualitative explorations of consumers assimilation and interpretation of the meaning of brands placed (DeLorme and Reid 1999). In addition, a distinct sub-stream of the literature has been devoted to the gauging of audience opinions about and attitudes toward brand placements in films. While numerous attitudinal studies of brand placement in films exist, to the authors knowledge only a single, qualitative study has yet examined attitudes toward brand placement in multiple media (DeLorme 1998). This exploratory study builds on and contributes to previous work by serving as the first quantitative investigation of attitudinal responses to brand placement in films, television shows, popular songs, and video games. Its overall objectives are to examine and compare the attitudes of college student consumers with regards to brand placement across different media. In addition, this study also investigates two potential antecedents of attitudes toward brand placement (attitude toward advertising in general and brand involvement). Employing a convenience sample of college students (n = 437), the results of this study reveal that opinions regarding movie and TV show placements tend to be rather similar and more positive (perhaps due to perceived similarities of their characteristics) than those dealing with music and video games. Respondents tend to perceive music and video game placements as: more inappropriate, less effective enhancers of content realism, inferior sources of brand information, less influential in purchase behavior, and more unethical and misleading. As no previous study has looked at content genre within the context of brand placement, our incorporation throws further light on and expands the knowledge of consumer perceptions of placement strategy. Finding of the study indicates that film and television have more genres considered appropriate for brand integrations than music or video games. It is interesting to note that animated fare for both movies and television is considered particularly inappropriate for brand placements by more than 50 percent of respondents.