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Brands should avoid 'hedonic contamination'

News, 07 April 2017

NEW YORK: In a new paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), an international research team counsels marketers not to over-reach in their advertising and product placement efforts – or else risk causing what is known as "hedonic contamination".

The study, Hedonic Contamination of Entertainment: How Exposure to Advertising in Movies and Television Taints Subsequent Entertainment Experiences, appears as part of a "What We Know About Television Advertising Now" section of the latest issue of JAR.

Authors Cristel Antonia Russell (American University, Washington, DC), Dale Russell (Uniformed Services University), Andrea Morales (Arizona State University) and Jean-Marc Lehu (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) assert that "in-content marketing" like product placement – in both television and movie content – can be an effective means of audience engagement.

Yet they caution against relying too much on a good thing. "Consumers commonly voice irritation with marketing efforts that interfere with their hedonic pursuits", such as watching a sporting event or relaxing with a movie.

And an overview of the current literature in the field reveals, "Surprisingly little is known about the impact that exposure to marketing messages in these contexts may have on consumer experiences."

The research further identifies the "activation of persuasion knowledge" as the underlying process for "hedonic contamination".

As the authors write: "Commercial exposure before entertainment content made consumers more attentive to and less welcoming of the product placements in the entertainment content.

"This led to a generally more negative hedonic experience and to lower attitudes toward the entertainment program itself [in movies and in television]."

More specifically, the academics believe that advertisers which bundle product-placement efforts with traditional advertising "might further prompt consumers' scepticism and alertness with regard to the embedded messages.

"Producers, distributors, and marketers of entertainment content, therefore, must be cautious of the commercial environment in which their content is consumed."

The paper concludes: "The research clearly shows that one must view product-placement effects holistically, taking into account the context surrounding the entertainment content.

"The focus on consumers' responses to the practice as a whole opens new avenues for investigating product-placement effects."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff