We were interested to read about Ian Smith’s apparently coincidental attack of the Pures during his commentary of the first All Blacks vs Ireland test, a three match series being sponsored by Steinlager, which is soon to launch its 2012 campaign featuring a new ambassador ($10 says it’s Ian Smith). Lion and Sky denied there was any attempt at nefarious aural product placement. But even if there was, it’s highly unlikely it would do anything: remember the old wives’ tale about subliminal messages being played in movie theatres that supposedly made people buy more Coke and popcorn?
But it got us thinking about some other modern marketing tactics currently being employed, particularly ‘branded content’ and ‘integration’, where the whole idea is to fuse products and brands into content, ideally without the viewers noticing. It’s basically advertising’s version of mutton dressed as lamb and its popularity is based around the old chestnut that endorsements are seen to carry more weight than advertisements, something that undoubtedly fuelled the rise of the PR industry. While most in this business know how the sponsorship game is played, and that the paying customers will demand their pound of flesh, a quick survey of a few friends not working in the persuasive arts proved many of them weren’t actually aware that a lingering shot of a product or brandname on one of local reality shows was likely to be paid for.
Sponsors would probably call that the holy grail, others might call it trickery. And judging by a recent decision in the UK that saw a Nike campaign banned because the tweets of footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire weren’t labelled as ads, marketers might need to tread carefully. It’s a fine line. So where should that line be drawn?