Is Product Placement Coming To Tune Town?

Tom Forrest

Britney Spears’ video “Hold It Against Me” [watch here] was released Feb. 17 and has garnered a flurry of attention. Fans perhaps loved the song’s thumping beat or the video’s modern, ultra chic techo-icity, but the trade mags were most enthralled by the unrelenting use of product placement  for companies like Sony, Plenty of Fish (dating website), Britney’s Radiance perfume, Sephora makeup and lots more. Product placement is the practice of exposing products in an admiring light that are really not integral to the video. According to www.tmz.com, Spears netted $500k for the various placements in “Hold It…” PlentyofFish.com, which reportedly spent in the six figure range, saw its traffic spike 20% the day after the video premiered.

Taking advantage of the product placement revenue stream in pop music videos is actually becoming almost the norm for those stars high enough on the food chain to attract such offers. In recent months Avril Lavigne, Lady Gaga and others have benefitted in this way. But what about country music? Is product placement on its way to Music City?

“We haven’t seen much on our end,” says Tom Forrest, President/Partner in Taillight TV whose company produces music videos and other projects. “For the longest time CMT had a policy about no overt product placements or endorsements in the videos,” he says. “Sometimes a male artist will drive a truck they endorse in the video, but it isn’t really meant to be a product placement. They need a vehicle for the video and certainly can’t be seen driving another manufacturer’s truck.” Forrest explains that his company does not participate in these deals. “In every contract we sign there is the payola clause. We cannot call up Coke and work a deal to make sure Reba drinks a coke. Those deals originate between an artist or label and the product.”

Craig Bann

However, with CD sales continuing to slide, music industry execs are busy fishing every revenue stream to see what they can catch. So is it reasonable to assume that country music artists may also begin to seek this kind of compensation?

“The potential for product placement is going to grow as more and more time is spent watching videos online,” says Craig Bann, AristoMedia Sr. VP Marketing & Publicity. “The fact that sites like YouTube, Vevo and others aren’t worried about product placement offers labels and artists a chance to recoup production costs. In the future I’d look for videos from developed artists to have two versions, one with product integrated into the concept and a second that’s product free to be delivered to broadcast outlets like CMT and GAC.”

“Who is willing to pay for Britney Spears to make a $500,000 video?” asks Forrest. “Most likely it isn’t the record company. Only with product placements is she able to afford this kind of imaging. It would be pretty difficult to do if MTV was the primary source of where that video would be seen. But music videos are being seen more and more on the web, on sites that are comfortable giving artists more control over their rights of what products they want to associate with. So yeah, you could definitely start to see this approach come to country. YouTube doesn’t care about product placement.”

Sarah Trahern

GAC Sr. VP Programming Sarah Trahern says she’s heard discussion about product integration from country artists, but has yet to see it appear in a video. “GAC has not yet set a formal policy on integration,” Trahern says. “If we do set one, it will be related to the blatancy of the product integration and whether or not it strongly distracts from the story content of the clip to viewers.”

Product placements on TV have become commonplace. In fact, The Nielsen Company ranks such movements by product and the shows that feature them. For example, According to Ad Age, during the period Jan. 1-31 Coca-cola, Chevrolet and Everlast sport equipment had the highest number of placement occurrences. ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, NBC’s 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards and NBC’s The Biggest Loser were the top three shows in terms of total placement occurrences.

The product placement discussion will evolve because the potential profits are ample, but ultimately, artists will still need to interact with their fans and bear the responsibility for keeping their trust.

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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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