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The perks of product placement on Facebook

The perks of product placement on Facebook Patrick Sweeney

The advertising world was stunned to hear Heineken's massive bar tab for placing a green bottle of beer in the hands of Daniel Craig (aka 007) in the most recent James Bond blockbuster "SkyFall." Heineken paid $45 million for the scene below and one other scene.

The perks of product placement on Facebook

While most brands would love to be associated with Bond, savvy marketers require demonstrable analysis and data mining to see if an investment really pays before they bet their career on a spend like that. In this article, I will answer the question really smart advertisers are asking: Is there a strong return for my brand in product placement?

Before delving into the detailed numbers and the surprising results of the data analysis behind "Skyfall," consider that return on investment in product placement has been challenging to measure since its inception. However, if done correctly, product placement can have direct attribution to increased sales. The largest product placement company in the world is also the most secretive. Apple reportedly (despite all corporate denial) pays over $300 million annually (in cash and products) for product placement and has the largest number of appearances in movies and television shows by far according to Brand Channel. It claims that Apple products appear in approximately 30 percent of all major motion pictures. Apple has certainly enjoyed robust sales, but there are more specific examples which show product placement provides a strong return.

One of the most famous: Sales of Reese's pieces surged 65 percent after ET ate the candy on the big screen. Clearly, product placement is pointless if it doesn't impact sales. In 2012 there were several well measured successful product placements that created a return on investment any CMO would boast about to the CEO. In the month following Mercedes' role in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," sales of the model SLS AMG were up 14 percent. The year before that, sales of the Dodge Charger, the unquestionable star of "Fast Five," were up 227 percent according to Brand Channel. So without a doubt product placement can impact sales. But at what cost?

Heineken paid $45 million to replace the "shaken, not stirred" martini. If we look at total worldwide sales through February 2013 and use the average worldwide ticket price (according to boxofficemojo.com), here is what it costs to have 48 seconds in the middle of a two-and-a-half hour movie:

"Skyfall" gross sales: $1,108,000,000
Average ticket price: $8.05
Total viewers: 137,639,752
Cost per viewer: $0.33

This $0.33 per viewer does not take into account the intensity of the placement. Are people looking at the Heineken bottle, or the half-naked Bond? Or the girl in bed with him? Intensity of an impression is the biggest issue with TV advertising today -- TV intensity has dropped dramatically with the advent of digital video recorders (TiVo) where viewers can fast forward through commercials.

So paying $0.33 for every man, woman, and child in the "Skyfall" audience to see a Heineken bottle seems pretty expensive (especially given the estimate that almost 25 percent of viewers are not of legal drinking age). What are the alternatives for savvy brand marketers? The biggest accessible market today with significant influence is social media -- specifically, but not exclusively, Facebook.

Facebook has a billion users and is highly influential in the buying process. It is easily reachable and can be segmented very easily. It is the No. 2 site on the web in terms of traffic. It's also the largest photo-sharing site with over 2.5 billion photos uploaded each month and growing. A 2012 study conducted by HubSpot found that posts with photos received 53 percent more "likes" and attracted 104 percent more comments than posts without an image. When a photo is in the stream (timeline or newsfeed) of a Facebook user, the user's friends see it and notice. So from an intensity perspective, it would be great if you could get product placement on Facebook. Before marketers start writing checks for social media, let's investigate a concrete example to make an apples-to-apples comparison with the Bond product placement.

At the 2012 London Olympics, Cadbury decided to amplify the Cadbury House experience by creating automated product placement on Facebook. Its partners Pretty Green and dwinQ set up automated check-in stations and automated photo booths, where users could wave their VIP access pass in front of a photo booth and snap a picture that uploaded in real-time to the guest's Facebook account. 20,000 people participated in the Cadbury House social media experience with huge amplification across Facebook.

Here's what the numbers say:

Total viewers on Facebook: 6,800,000
Cost of project: $300,000
Cost per viewer: $0.04

This picture shows one of the photos taken at the event. Two people are standing on a podium, a video loop of a big crowd scene is behind them, the Cadbury logo is on the lower left, and the 2012 Olympics logo is on the lower right. The intensity of images like this one is very high because the images appear in the stream of the Facebook user and feature the user as the star. Plus it is a unique photo at a compelling event.

If Cadbury had leveraged Facebook's most successful marketing vehicle, Sponsored Stories, it could have brought that number up even higher to 11 or 12 million viewers, although the per viewer cost would have risen slightly over the original project.

The cost of the Bond film was more than seven times (741 percent) more expensive, and the intensity is significantly lower. The Cadbury/Facebook combination destroys Heineken and Bond in a fight that isn't even close.

Looking back on 2012, there are numerous examples of major brands successfully experimenting with product placement on Facebook. Facebook uses both internet and mobile --the fastest growth opportunities in advertising. Plus social media product placement addresses the growing trend of consumers to use social media while they watch TV and movies. The dual screen phenomenon is an emerging trend in building brand champions. Brands such as Nissan, Lexus, Infiniti, Nintendo, NASCAR and Stoli all leveraged Facebook to create highly effective social media product placements last year.

At only pennies per user, and with the product placement appearing right in the stream, the return on investment for social media product placement is almost guaranteed. Facebook can provide the biggest benefits for brands getting in and leveraging social media early, while it is still inexpensive. Shaken, stirred, or lying in bed, hands down the best use of advertising in product placement is Facebook, not the movies.

Patrick Sweeney is the CEO of dwinQ.

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Patrick is CEO of dwinQ the real-world social media company. For event and sponsorship marketers, dwinQ is the social media engagement platform that deepens and extends event participation by turning every...

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