Product Placement-and-Purchase Comes to Television

For years, television executives have eagerly awaited the day when technology will enable them to fulfill their plans for using product placement advertising as a significant revenue generator. The technology they have been waiting for is the one that enables viewers to instantly make purchases of products as they see these appear on their favorite television shows. The executives see tremendous opportunity to expand the common practice of product placement advertising, where companies pay to have their products appear on shows, into product placement-and-purchase, where what viewers see can also be directly purchased.

Sure buying what customers see on television has been around a long time, and shopping networks HSN and QVS have been offering this for years. But inserting a purchase option within network programming, such as sitcoms and dramas, may send this to a much higher level.

From a consumer behavior perspective, marketers salivate at the potential for customers to make a quick purchase decision. For the marketer, they see customers making buying decisions when they have recognized the need and the buyers’ thought patterns have moved quickly to acquiring the product (i.e., “My favorite shows has the product and so should I”). In many ways, this is aimed squarely at impulse buyers, who spend virtually no time searching for options. This, of course, is not necessarily the best thing for customers, who may have different thoughts about buying if more time was needed to make a purchase, but marketers have rarely worried about that.

An example of one attempt at product placement-and-purchase is presented in this New York Times story. It discusses how Target is teaming with the TBS television network to test purchasing of 25 products appearing on the network’s Cougar Town show. To make a purchase, a viewer will need to be watching their television and also be connected to the Internet through another device, such as a tablet or computer, that is streaming a special version of the show. The online version will indicate which products can be purchased, which customers can do with a click.

The need for separate devices is certainly something that will not be needed as this product placement-and-purchase moves forward. Instead, as television becomes more like computers, it is easy to see the day when a viewer simply points their remote at their television and makes the purchase.