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Mental Models for Brand Placement

The use of brand placement in a movie or television program has been employed by advertisers for more than 50 years as a way of communicating their specific brands to an audience (Babin & Carder, 1996; Sargent et al., 2001). A recent content analysis of 112 hours of prime-time television during the spring of 1997 found that, on average, there were close to 30 brand appearances per hour of prime-time programming (Avery & Ferraro, 2000; Ferraro & Avery, 2000). Apparently, brand placement is perceived as an effective mechanism for reaching audiences.


Why is brand placement used? Because, as already discussed, it is believed to be effective, but, more specifically, brand placement has a number of advantages compared with traditional advertising, such as 15- or 30-s commercials. First, brand placement probably overcomes the problem of zapping (Avery & Ferraro 2000; d’Astous & Chartier, 2000).

Though it is easy to run to the kitchen for a beer during a commercial break, a person is less likely to run to the kitchen when Reese’s Pieces are being placed on the ground because the viewer presumably wants to watch the movie (Babin & Carder, 1996; d’Astous & Chartier, 2000). Second, brand placements are often associated with well-known actors or actresses, and, as a result, the placement can work as a celebrity endorsement (Avery & Ferraro, 2000).


Watching a movie or television show involves, at its most basic level, building a representation of what is occurring in the show. Based on previous research on text comprehension, we have argued elsewhere that comprehension of media shows involves the construction of mental models (Roskos-Ewoldsen, Roskos-Ewoldsen, Yang et al., 2002). However, mental models in general, and the landscape model in particular, seem far removed from the study of the influence of brand and product placements in movies and television.

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