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Consumer Attitude Towards Brand Placement: Comparing Realty Television and Fictional Television.

It has always been worth our while as researchers to examine and understand the way companies utilize various mediums of mass communication. In this rapidly evolving field of communication, many traditional advertising practices such as commercial breaks or previews on movies are gradually being replaced by brand (product) placement. According to Karrh (1998), brand placement can be defined as the paid inclusion of branded products or brand identifiers, through audio and/ or visual means, within mass media programming. While there have been many studies looking at consumer perceptions toward this style of advertising, most have focused on their inclusion in fictional movies and television shows. There appears to be a large gap in this vast amount research. Past studies conducted by Ben Soo Ong has argued that many consumers view brand placement as tacky, too deliberate, or not natural, (Ong, 2004) when referring to fictional television or movies. However, there is very little research available that test Ongs findings on Reality Television. According to Deery (2004) Reality TV is more naturally occurring and viewers may view product placement as more acceptable, Because it normalizes and to this extent ratifies the product. Therefore, the aim of this current study is to measure consumers attitudes toward brand placement practices in the reality television programs in comparison to fictional television programs. The communication concepts to be examined are, fictional television, reality television, brand placement, and acceptability. The nature of these

Brand Placement 3 concepts with respect to American consumers would generally determine the attitudes they may have toward brand placement in Reality Television which leads to the proposed research question: Do U.S. consumers have a negative or positive attitude toward brand placement in Reality Television programs?

Theoretical Background For the purposes of this study, fictional television will be defined as a genre of programs made for television which are created by a fictional written script, and contain a fictional storyline, fictional characters, and/or fictional setting. It should be noted that fictional television programs might contain certain aspects that can be found in real life, such as a program setting being based in New York City, or a fictional character driving an Aston Martin car. However, any real life aspects found in a fictional television program are only placed within the program as part of the fictional written script for a specific purpose related to the fictional storyline, and these do not change the overall fictional nature of the television program itself. Agenda Setting is an important theory that explains how the media persuades audiences through various means by not telling us what to think, but what to think about. Brand placement is a perfect example of how advertisers imbed various products into scenes in hopes of them being noticed and influencing viewers to act on the inference (buy the product). Unlike commercials that verbally try to persuade viewers into buying a certain product, brand placement presents the image with hopes that it will influence our

Brand Placement 4 thoughts. Furthermore, Agenda Setting uses consistency and repetition to signal to people the importance of the issue or event (Baran, 2008), which could be related to the constant occurrence of a certain brand in a television program. Reality television will be defined as a genre of programs made for television, which intends to portray the supposed unscripted/unplanned actions/reactions of real life, nonfictional individuals placed within real life, nonfictional settings/locations. These real life settings may be actual external settings, such as the boat crews in the Bering Sea on the program, The Deadliest Catch, or they may be a manufactured setting such as a group of individuals selected to live together temporarily in a loft in Manhattan, as on the show The Real World. The concept brand placement will be defined as the paid inclusion of branded products or brand identifiers, through audio and/or visual means, within mass media programming (Karrh, 1998). Brand placement is an advertising method that has been utilized by marketers for over 50 years. Moreover, the role of brand placements has shifted from a brief background prop to being an intrinsic part of mass media programming (Yang & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2007). A study by Moonhee Yang & David R. Roskos-Ewoldsen highlighted three different levels of visual brand placements: in the background, used by the main character, and as an integral part of the unfolding story (Yang & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2007). This study will analyze these three levels of brand placements in determining their influence on the level of acceptability of the brand placement.

Brand Placement 5 In this study, acceptability will refer to a viewers approval or disapproval of brand placement within fictional and/or reality television programs. A viewers acceptability can be influenced by the level of brand placement, which refers to the study conducted by Yang & Roskos-Ewoldsen (2007). It explains that there three different levels of brand placement; either in the background, being held or made use of by a main character or as a integral part of the storyline. Acceptability can also depends on the consumers frequency of TV exposure (high or low media user) and/or their level of media literacy, which refers to a viewers ability to effectively and efficiently comprehend and utilize mass communication (Baran, 2008). A theory that coincides with this experiment, and also with the influence of mass media communication is the Transmissional Perspective by Professor J.W. Carey (1975). This theory sees media as senders of information for the purpose of control; that is media either have effects on our behavior or they do not (Baran, 2008). Although acceptability may vary between consumers, the amount of control (whether brand placement persuades or does not persuade), which the media has on a viewer is determined by their exposure frequency and level of media literacy. Another theory by Carey (1975) that pertains to this study is the Ritual Perspective would coincide with the study done by Yang & Roskos-Ewoldsen (2007) about multiple levels of placement. This suggests that if a enviable main character is using a specific product, past studies have concluded that this has a massive effect on the acceptance of brand placement. The theory views media not as a means of transmitting messages in space but as central to the maintenance of society in time. Mass

Brand Placement 6 communication is not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs. In other words, the ritual perspective is necessary to understand the cultural importance of mass communication (Baran, 2008). Literature Review Brand placement is in no way a new marketing concept. In fact, it has been perceived as an effective mechanism for reaching audiences and have been employed by marketers for more than 50 years (Babin & Carder, 1996, as cited in Yang & RoskosEwoldsen, 2007). However, recent technological advances such as TiVO and DVR have altered the way individuals watch television. These digital recorders not only allow for viewers to record specific programs which limits channel surfing, but also gives consumers the power to zap or fast forward through television commercials. This poses new opportunities and new threats to brand communications(Ong, 2004), and has left many advertisers searching for new ways to get their product noticed. Recognizing the fact that consumers are inundated with a vast number of TV channel choices, having a brand featured or embedded into a popular TV program would likely gain more attention or exposure than having the brand advertised between program breaks(Ong, 2004). Another rather recent development in television culture is the rise of Reality Television. So far, the dominant new TV genre of the 21st century, Reality TV provides a clear example of commercial culture in which mediation is primarily designed to sell (McAllister, 2003). According to Deery (2004), individuals, experiences, and even the medium itself are repeatedly marketed in a genre whose absorption of direct and indirect selling is currently spearheading a conflation of advertising and entertainment.

Brand Placement 7 Furthermore, brand placement in Reality TV allows for advertisers to pinpoint a very specific audience because the demographics of viewers of a certain kind of reality program are well understood. Brand placement also seem to have a longer life-span than traditional forms of advertisement due to re-runs or a reality shows seasonal transition to DVD. (Deery, 2004) Therefore, it seems as though the Reality TV genre is redefining the traditional brand placement practice and enables advertisers to utilize the naturally occurring environment to embed certain products that may appear out of place in more fictional mediums (i.e. movies or a sitcom TV series). In a study conducted by Delorme and Reid (1999), research found that their subjects were very aware of excessive showing of brand and placements in unnatural and inappropriate settings including over-emphasis through camera techniques in movies. Their subjects also noted that such actions cheapen the movie-going experience and insult the audience. In fact, many studies have indicated that if a brand placement appears too obvious or out of context, the viewers attitude toward the practice will decline. Therefore it is imperative for future research to test if this theory would also apply to non-fictional television shows context (Reality TV) as well. Researchers at the head of attitudinal studies concerning brand placement are Gupta and Gould (1997), whose studies are often referred to by various researchers in the field. Their 1997 study was the first to expand the inquiry into American consumer attitudes to consider different product types. In this study, Gupta and Gould produced and distributed a survey to 1012 American college students. The results indicated that U.S. college students attitudes toward brand placement in the media are generally positive.

Brand Placement 8 These studies have given us a clearer view of collegeaged audience consumers attitudes towards the practice of brand placement in the USA. (Karrh, Frith & Callison, 2001) Furthermore, in a more recent and rather large study conducted by Gould, Gupta and Grabner-Krauter (2000), researchers performed a cross-cultural analysis of Austrian, French and American Consumers Attitudes Toward This Emerging International Promotional Medium. This research took into account product differences, individual differences and country differences. Their results indicate that U.S., Austria and France differ in their attitudes toward brand placement and shows U.S. consumers as being more accepting of, and more likely to purchase products shown in movies or television However, it appeared as though the type of product featured also played a major role in whether the brand placement was viewed positively or negatively. For example, ethically charged products like cigarettes, alcohol and guns were viewed negatively. Also, this study appeared to show significant gender differences, where women viewed brand placement less positively than men(Gould, Gupta & GrabnerKrauter, 2000). Although this study did provide much insight into international viewpoints of brand placement, it only included attitudes toward product placement in general, attitude toward television advertising in general, perceived realism and the attitude toward restricting product placements. It also is important to point out that in both of these studies, the frequency in which a consumer views certain media outlets, (movies or television) greatly influences a consumers overall acceptability of placement. This result runs parallel with Reimeisdale, Neijens and Smits (2007) research, which also concluded frequent viewers of programs that include brand placement exhibited

Brand Placement 9 more positive beliefs and more positive attitude toward brand placement. Thus, it would be important for future research to take this variable into account when researching consumer attitudes toward brand placement on Reality TV. However, these studies, like a majority of the literature reviewed in this paper, fail to take into account various sub-genres, such as separating Reality TV programs from generalized, all-inclusive variables like television. Furthermore, it is important to mention that even with the amount of research conducted on the topic of brand placement it is difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of consumer attitudes toward brand placement because much of the data is proprietary (Karrh, 1998; Yang & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2004). Therefore, despite the widespread use of this promotional medium, there are still various areas of the practice that need to be included in future studies.

Rationale There has been much research conducted on the topic of brand placement with many focusing on the effectiveness of brand placement ads and the attitudinal measures and the resulting purchase intentions of consumers. Other relatable studies, such as the ones mentioned in the above section by Gupta and Gould (1997); Gupta, Gould and Grabner-Krauter (2000); and Neijens and Smit (2003), fail to include consumer attitudes on non-fictional genres of media in their research. First, prior research suggests that the study of consumers perceptions of brand placement usage in Reality Television programs would be instrumental in understanding

Brand Placement 10 the overall effectiveness of brand placement in general (Ferle & Edwards, 2006). Although much research on this topic of brand placement has been conducted within the fictional television and movie realm, there does not appear to be many studies done on reality-based television, which many advertisers have utilized as the newest outlet for companies to sell as it entertains, thus coining the phrase Advertainment (Deery, 2004). Also, it would be important to conduct this study using a study group a similar in demographic to Gupta and Goulds (1997) study on the attitude of college students toward brand placement. Therefore, the topic of interest for this current study is to measure college-age (18-22) U.S. consumers attitudes toward brand placement practices in the reality television genre compared to fictional television programs. Given the literature reviewed in this paper, the researcher poses the following research question: RQ1: Is there a difference between reality television programs and fictional television programs with respect to a consumers level of acceptability toward brand placement.

Methodology Research Design Based on the information mentioned, the most fitting way to measure this research is through the use of a survey. In previous studies on consumer acceptability towards brand placement, researchers have chosen to use a survey approach for data collection. Much work on this topic by various researchers have built upon prior work by Gupta and Gould (1997). Since there are various holes in research most feel it is best to

Brand Placement 11 work off of and extend the use of one survey done by Gupta and Gould, although some slightly tailor the survey to better fit their topic. One survey, which followed in suit with Gupta and Gould (1997), was recreated by Karrh, Frith and Callison while testing for differences between audience attitudes toward brand placement in Singapore and the U.S. This survey contained 28 items measured along a 5-point, Likert scale. The first 12 of these items related to self-monitoring activity, the use of brands in self-presentation, and attribution as to whether brands shown in films and TV shows are a form of advertising (Karrh, Frith & Callison, 2001). Another study that implemented a more modern approach to the method of survey was Reijmersdal, Neijens, and Smith, who asked that their participants fill out an online survey after watching a specific television program. The proposed study would keep in sync with these past studies and also use this method of survey.

Participants The sample for this study would be made up of 500 undergraduate Communication majors from various schools around California. The students would be solicited through the use of personal contacts, flyers, on-line computer networking, and local mass media advertisements. The respondents would be strongly encouraged to use social networking services to invite their friends from other schools to join in on the study, thus creating a mixture of social and cultural demographics. The recruitment process would involve telephoning potential participants and asking them various questions including a brief introduction of themselves, their current college enrollment

Brand Placement 12 status, age and television watching frequency (Delorme & Reid,1999). Participants would each be paid 5 dollars for their involvement in the study. Confidentiality will be ensured, as the surveys will be completed online using the participants personal computer. Furthermore, all collected information will only be used for the basis of this study and any data revealing the identity of the volunteer will be destroyed.

Procedures Participants of this study would be asked to log onto a website that briefly explained the details needed to complete the survey. Then, each participant would be numbered and then randomly sorted, through the use of a number generating computer software, into two groups. The first group (N=50), would be asked to watch specifically selected fictional television sitcoms during prime-time viewing periods. The specified programs will only consist of those shown on the main network channels and will display multiple levels of brand placement throughout. The second group will consist of the other 50 participants, and will require that they watch specifically selected reality television programs during prime-time viewing periods. Again, the specified programs will only consist of those shown on the main network channels and will show various instances of brand placement at varying levels. After viewing the specified pieces, the participants would be asked to fill out an online questionnaire which would measure the individuals acceptability toward brand placement in which other mode they watched (fictional or reality). The survey in this study similar to the survey used by Gupta and Gould (1997) in their studies, but also

Brand Placement 13 contains items from Karrh, Frith and Callisons (2001), survey. The supervisor of the survey would be available by telephone throughout the data collection to be of any assistance to the volunteers including answering any questions about the survey, and reminding the participants of their rights through the administration of an informed consent.

Measurement To keep within the parallels of past studies and ensure reliability, established forms of measurement would be implemented for the dependent variable. Level of acceptability (accepted or not accepted), would be measured through Gupta and Goulds (1997) survey. Their survey included 30 attitude items that accounted for 50.8% of the variance and the reliability was assessed by Cronbachs Alpha = .66. Although their survey included attitudes toward movies and television, the questions still pertain to the subject and are versatile enough to be reworded and applied to the current study. The survey is in the Likert -form and would consists of questions such as: I dont mind if brand placements appears in television programs, I think it is unethical for producers to attempt to influence the audience by including brand- name products. The use and placement of brand name products seemed natural and The brand-name products were very obvious and intrusive. (Gupta & Gould, 1997) These survey questions would help determine the level of acceptance a consumer may have toward brand placement.

Brand Placement 14 Results This study would call that a T-Test be administered to test for differences between two nominal variables. This test would be fitting for the proposed study because the research question wishes to identify a difference between consumers level of acceptability toward brand placement in reality television shows and a consumers level of acceptability toward brand placement in a fictional television shows.

Discussion The proposed study would be very beneficial to the study of mass media communication. As technology continues to advance and allow for mass penetration of TiVo followed by Interactive TV, and as the gaming world expands to use of the technique, product placement will evitably grow do to its win win win nature(Ferle & Edwards, 2006). It is an area of research that needs to be continually updated to capture the dynamic nature of the technique and changing practices in its use (Ferle & Edwards, 2006). More studies will need to tap into this overlooked category of research to assess changes in advertising and marketing strategies as well as their effectiveness. Possible results of this study would find that brand placement is more acceptable in the reality show genre in comparison to more theatrical, fiction-based television shows. Or, like past studies that focused on acceptability of brand placement in Movies; the practice will be an accepted alternate to traditional forms of advertisement. Future research would need to be conducted in order to test various age groups and social demographics. Also, because there were limitations on the method used, (i.e. only those

Brand Placement 15 going to school in California), a more wide-ranging, national sample must be taken to ensure maximum generalizability.