The downside for marketers? While they have an ever-expanding stage, measuring reach and effectiveness of those messages becomes even more complex, particularly when determining relevance of a placement.
"What you really want to understand about product placement is whether or not the client has achieved their objectives," says Alan Wurtzel, president-research and media development at NBC. "How do you measure that?"
The measurement marketplace has become a crowded one as start-ups and more traditional measurement services try to answer Mr. Wurtzel's question. Some, like Marketing Evolution, measure impact directly-for example, counting how many people recognize a product placement. Others, like Intelliseek and VNU-based BuzzMetrics (which are in the process of merging), seek out indirect effects-what people are saying and what they think about the placement. Yet others, like IAG Research and E-Poll, try to do a little of both.
TNS Media Intelligence recently added a service called Branded Entertainment. Like IAG, the company measures product placement or brand appearances in all six networks' prime-time programming, three late-night talk shows and selected basic cable programming. TNS measures products as well as brand appearances such as logos or symbols. The company uses its own employees to track data, eschewing the consumer survey model.
"We're collecting detailed descriptive information [such as] was there a plot connection?" says Jon Swallen, senior VP-research. "We're collecting measures that relate to impact."
TNS' customers use its service to track industry norms and to track how well a specific integration deal was executed, he says.
Both IAG, which provides syndicated data for prime-time programming, and TNS compete with VNU's Nielsen Media Research and its Place*Views software, which tracks all prime-time network programs as well as some cable shows. Nielsen gets as precise as the type of hit-audio or visual-as well as duration and occurrence. Advertisers looking for competitive information can do so via a feature that sorts product placements by advertiser, brand or product category.
Nielsen will become a bigger player through the BuzzMetrics-Intelliseek merger, which will create the new Nielsen BuzzMetrics service.
Some companies, like iTVX, are trying to put a valuation on product placement. The company's Q-Ratio is a weighted measure that assigns a relative value of a traditional 30-second spot to a placement opportunity. The Q-Ratio is a starting place for assigning a cost to product placement, iTVX CEO Frank Zazza says, adding, "What our system does is allow our network broadcasters to do business with the advertiser in a way that everyone gets a fair shake."
Marketing Evolution is also looking to compare the cost of a placement to a traditional ad and does so for not only in-program placement but cross-media branding opportunities such as online and billboard ads.
Millward Brown works directly with marketers, measuring brand impact, says Ann Green, senior VP-marketing solutions. "We can really drill down with consumers."