Brand integration: Marketing & ad-free streaming

15 August – 2018

It’s safe to say I don’t like adverts. I click the skip button on YouTube within 0.00000061 seconds of it appearing. I pay for uninterrupted listening on Spotify Premium. And, I’ve all but given up on watching anything broadcast by channels that insist on showing adverts both on TV and their catch-up services.

I’m not alone in this sentiment either. According to YouGov, 59% of UK viewers think there is too much advertising on TV. Only 14% of people think of alternatives such as product placement as a positive thing.

Until now, I was more than happy to pay Netflix for the privilege of advert-free bingeing. However, I found myself in a cold sweat after reading the headline of Imogen Watson’s article in The Drum. Envisioning a future of Wayne’s World-esque shameless promotions and plot-stalling product placements like that scene in Designated Survivor, I was all but ready to cancel my subscription and give up on TV altogether.

Luckily, for me and Netflix (I’m sure they depend greatly on my £5.99 a month), I read the rest of the article and learned a few new things. The most revealing insight to me was that ‘brand integration’ is not the same as ‘product placement’!

Where product placement shoehorns logos and products into scenes in a generally very conspicuous way (James Bond drinking Heineken, anyone?) brand integration functions like an advertising ninja, hiding in plain sight. Think Wilson in Cast Away, Eggos in Stranger Things and the whole concept of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The brand or product forms an integral part of the plot.

That’s not to say brand integration is perfect. I’d argue that 2017’s Power Rangers went too far with their heavy-handed integration of Krispy Kreme into the plot of the film. Whilst this may have been an attempt at meta-humour, I’m not sure Power Rangers was the time or the place to try this out.

I struggled to think of many examples but apparently 24 of the 25 top streamed TV shows feature brand integration. On one hand I’m shocked and appalled that I’ve been advertised to without my knowledge, but the marketer in me is impressed. That’s 24 shows that have managed to integrate a product or service into their storylines so well that most people didn’t even register it.

And here I circle back to my first point; I hate advertising because it’s in my face and annoying. But if well-thought-out brand integration that I barely notice is what it takes to keep streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime successful, then I’m OK with that.