Programming Changes Cause Drop in Product Placement

Cable Down 20% From Last Year, While Broadcast Reaps Benefits

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Despite popular sentiment to the contrary (e.g., all those designer threads on "Gossip Girl"), product placement has had less airtime on network TV for the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen Co. findings released today.
During its first-half run, 'American Idol,' with 4,636 occurrences, was the top program in terms of the number of placements.
During its first-half run, 'American Idol,' with 4,636 occurrences, was the top program in terms of the number of placements. Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

Overall, product placements in the first half of 2008 fell by almost 15% on prime-time programming when figures for the 11 measured networks on broadcast (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, MyNetworkTV, NBC) and cable TV (A&E, Bravo, HGTV, MTV and TLC) were combined.

While prime-time product-placement occurrences on broadcast increased almost 12% during the first and second quarters of 2008 (the top 10 programs featured 21,427 occurrences between January and June of this year vs. 17,370 occurrences in the year-ago period), placements on cable TV declined by 20%.

There were 204,919 brand occurrences on cable and broadcast networks between January and June of this year, according to Nielsen Product Placement Service. The most prevalent type of placement on broadcast TV was foreground, which represented 30% of all product placements. On cable, wardrobe placements were most common, accounting for 28% of all placements.

Effects of writers strike
Nielsen research attributes the increase on broadcast TV chiefly to changes in programming schedules due to the writers strike. NBC's "The Biggest Loser," (featuring 1,765 occurrences of 24 Hour Fitness) which normally airs each fall, kicked off its fifth season in January, and Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (featuring 1,308 occurrences Chef Revival) began season five in April instead of its customary June, thereby airing more episodes during the first half of the year.

During its first-half run, "American Idol," with 4,636 occurrences, was the top program in terms of the number of placements. Four of the top 10 programs aired on NBC, while Fox and the CW aired another two each. All of the top 10 programs had more than 1,000 placements.

The top 10 featured brands on prime-time broadcast TV increased by 38%, from 6,848 occurrences in the first half of 2007 to 9,485 for the six months this year. Coca-Cola again ranked No. 1, with 2,990 occurrences for this time period.

The top-10 cable programs featuring product placements accounted for 85,480 occurrences in the first half, a decrease of 8% from 92,925 occurrences in 2007.
Apparel was the No. 1 product-placement category on cable during the first half of 2008 with Orange County Choppers apparel tallying 3,706 occurrences thanks to TLC's 'American Chopper.'
Apparel was the No. 1 product-placement category on cable during the first half of 2008 with Orange County Choppers apparel tallying 3,706 occurrences thanks to TLC's 'American Chopper.' Credit: TLC

Nielsen says the decrease in cable occurrences stems from changes in program lineups. Several shows that featured a significant number of product placements -- TLC's "American Chopper" and "Miami Ink"; MTV's "Run's House" and "Pimp My Ride"; and A&E's "Driving Force" and "Dog the Bounty Hunter" -- aired less frequently or were removed from prime-time lineups in the first half.

'Chopper' on top again
TLC's "American Chopper" was again the top program, with 26,794 placements. Four of the programs in the Top 10 air on TLC, and another four air on MTV. Bravo's "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" held the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.

"American Chopper" featured the greatest number of product placements, but placements airing on TLC's "Trading Spaces" were the most successful: Six of the top 10 best-performing placements during the first half of this year were found in the program, including Home Depot's April 12 and April 5 placements, which received a 75% positive response from viewers.

With 26,063 placements, apparel was the No. 1 product-placement category on cable during the first half of 2008. The top-three apparel brands include Orange County Choppers apparel (3,706 occurrences), Under Armour (3,068 occurrences) and Big Black (1,843). Nike and Adidas also ranked among the top-five apparel brands. MTV programming surpassed all networks in apparel placement, with four shows accounting for approximately 9,500 occurrences.
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