Research shows product placement can shift brand perception

Category: News Release

Jonathan Lewis, Head of Digital & Partnership Innovation at Channel 4

New research carried out by BDRC Continental and Channel 4 has revealed that Product Placement can dramatically shift television viewers’ perception of a brand and is appreciated by viewers as it enhances television content credibility.

This new consumer research focuses on the brands that have taken advantage of Product Placement opportunities on flagship Channel 4 programmes in the two years since Ofcom first allowed Product Placement in UK TV programmes.  

In 2011, New Look and BlackBerry were two of the first brands to take advantage of a Product Placement opportunity on Channel 4 in their Advertiser Funded Programme (AFP), New Look Style Nation and Live and Lost with BlackBerry respectively. Last year, L’Oreal and Nokia Lumia came on board to showcase their product brands to the young and engaged Hollyoaks audience. Since then, other Channel 4 Product Placement partnerships have included Yeo Valley and Uncle Ben’s with Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals; PG Tips with Deal Or No Deal; and Kenwood with Sunday Brunch.

Channel 4 and research agency BDRC Continental have pioneered and developed a unique gamification methodology for measuring the effectiveness of Product Placement which was used to evaluate these high profile brand campaigns.

Key findings from this research show that Product Placement:

  • Can dramatically shift TV viewers perception of a brand
  • Is appreciated by Channel 4’s savvy viewers as it enhances TV content credibility
  • Implicitly forges brand association with TV content on a subconscious level, unlike more explicit forms of advertising
  • Normalises brands through association with trusted TV content
  • Produces a halo effect with brands associated with popular TV shows
  • Can significantly increase consumer purchase intent and behaviour in terms of brand knowledge, likeability, talkability and advocacy in viewers exposed to the placement

Jonathan Lewis, Head of Digital & Partnership Innovation at Channel 4 said: “This consumer research is incredibly valuable in demonstrating the effectiveness of Product Placement as an advertising solution – and it backs up what we have learned through a range of partnerships Channel 4 has already brought to screen.

“Product Placement has enormous potential and we look forward to sharing this research with agencies and clients to find innovative editorial partnerships for their brands.”

Max Willey from BDRC Continental said: “Now that we have evaluated enough campaigns to create reliable normative data it’s fascinating to see the strengths of Product Placement compared to other advertising media. Results consistently show that placed brands feel more familiar and ‘every day’ to viewers; on some less established brands this impact has been phenomenal.”

This consumer research study has shown that Product Placement is working as Channel 4 indicated it would, following initial thought leadership research carried out in early 2011 where a number of experts in the field of advertising, marketing and neuro-science were interviewed to explore why Product Placement can be an effective medium for advertisers.

The research was managed by Andrew Tenzer, Senior Research Executive, alongside Vicky Kell, Partnership Business Manager, AFP/PP at Channel 4.


Detailed findings:

The research reveals that the biggest impact of Product Placement is on brand perception, with some brands experiencing dramatic positive shifts. The Hollyoaks research revealed that viewers were more likely to see Nokia Lumia as being best for their social networks, easiest for one click pictures and shoot share, and to have a great selection of apps.1  The Yeo Valley research with Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals showed that Product Placement impacted positively on brand equity statements from pre viewing stage, (conducted prior to viewing Product Placement content) to post viewing stage (conducted after viewing) – in particular those who agreed strongly that they trust the brand for frequent use (18% to 23%), that the brand is responsible (17% to 22%) and is a brand that is worth what you pay for (17% to 21%).

Research also shows that TV audiences widely welcome Product Placement because it can enhance content credibility by making it more realistic and reflective of everyday life. It produces a halo effect with brand positivity caused by its association with this new ad format. The Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals research found that 86% agreed that the Product Placement fitted in well with the series – and eight in ten (78%) Hollyoaks viewers agreed Product Placement fitted in well with the drama. Seven in ten (73%) Hollyoaks viewers also agreed it made the programme more realistic.

Product Placement capitalises on para-social relationships where, if a product is used by a favourite TV character then it is as if it is being recommended by a friend. The Jamie findings revealed that 87% of viewers trust the products Jamie uses in the programme – and 78% are keen to try out the products used.

This new ad format works on an implicit level as the research found that many viewers subconsciously forged the link between the brand and the programme rather than explicitly doing so. Some of the findings show this is more spontaneous (unprompted) than when prompted on a Product Placement, which is almost unheard of in more traditional explicit ad evaluations.

The research was underpinned by the same unique gamification methodology. One of the game mechanics used an engaging quiz format which blanked out pictures of the Product Placement from actual programme scenes and asked viewers to identify the correct brand. From the Hollyoaks research findings, Nokia Lumia presented 47% (unprompted) vs. 39% (prompted) – and prompted results for other brands were also strong. From the Jamie research, the Uncle Ben’s findings saw awareness of the Product Placement was significantly higher than the norm as 62% of participants attributed Uncle Ben’s to a blanked out image of Jamie using the product (the norm is 38%). Jamie using the microwavable rice was stand out as 86% recalled seeing the placement once they were prompted with the blanked out image (the norm is 45%).

Product Placement partnerships significantly help to drive consumer behaviour in terms of brand knowledge, likeability, talkability and advocacy when compared to non-viewers. Amongst viewers pre-stage, Yeo Valley ranked fifth in terms of brand awareness, however, at post stage when asked what yoghurt brand they thought Jamie uses within his recipes throughout the programme, Yeo Valley was a clear winner (34% versus another leading brand in second place with 19%).

Placing products within popular flagship programmes can drive a significant increase in spontaneous purchase consideration. The Jamie research revealed that over half of all viewers (52%) agreed that they expected to purchase Yeo Valley next time they need yoghurt.

The research also found that brand association with well-known trusted content normalises brands with shifts in agreement. From the Hollyoaks research, Nokia Lumia saw significant uplifts in normalisation statements across the board amongst viewers, compared with non-viewers, including agreements in the phones fitting into their everyday life and increased awareness of the phones.2  Uncle Ben’s partnership with Jamie’s series has helped to normalise the brand with those agreeing strongly that Uncle Ben’s is a brand that is part of their day-to-day life increasing from 26% in the pre-stage, to 32% in the post stage amongst viewers. It also helped to shift perceptions of using microwaveable rice, one of the key objectives of the campaign – as well as increased perceptions of product quality, value, ingredients, speed and effectiveness.3  Spontaneous awareness of Uncle Ben’s also increased at the post-stage amongst viewers (55% to 62%). Yeo Valley also saw an increase from pre to post stage, particularly with those who strongly agreed that they were familiar with and understand what the brand is about (14% to 19%) and that people they know use the brand (12% to 18%).



For further information on Product Placement or AFP opportunities at Channel 4:

Laura Cottrell, Partnership Business Manager, AFP/PP, Channel 4

020 7306 8708


Notes to editors:

  • Ofcom first allowed Product Placement in UK TV programmes on 28th February 2011. 
  • Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. For example, a questionnaire containing engaging quiz formats such as blanking out pictures of the product placement from actual programme scenes and asking viewers to identify the correct brand.
  • Research case studies:
  • Nokia Lumia: fives waves of research (June 2012; July 2012; August 2012; September 2012; October 2012) – 1452 viewers / 622 non-viewers
  • Uncle Bens and Yeo Valley: two waves of research (October 2012; December 2012) – 500 viewers / 200 non-viewers


Additional Research Data:

1          In terms of brand impact, Nokia Lumia have seen dramatic shifts in perception exemplified by the following measures:

            Best for my social networks +36%

            Easiest for one click pictures and shoot share +37%

            Great selection of apps +16%

            *Scores indicated are the net shift (test % change – control % change)

2          Nokia Lumia has seen significant uplifts in normalisation exemplified by the following statements:
      Their phones would fit in as part of my everyday life 52% pre - 57% post
      Makes phones for people like me 47% pre - 54% post
      Make phones I am seeing more of recently 42% pre to 48% post

3          The Uncle Bens case study saw increases amongst viewers from pre to post stage  for the following:
      It’s faster to prepare 60% - 68%

            The rice always comes out right 41% - 45%

            It has the right portion size 29% - 37%

            It is good quality 29% - 36%

            It offers a good meal 22% - 34%

            It is good value for money 21% - 32%

            It tastes like home cooked rice 22% - 28%

            It contains no artificial preserves 5% - 12%