NEW YORK: Combining product placement with a commercial run during the same TV show may have "beneficial synergies" for brands, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Ever since the earliest days of broadcast television, marketers have placed their products in a programming environment, hoping that the show's halo of engagement will extend from plotlines and characters to their brands.

And Comparing Brand Placements and Advertisements on Brand Recall and Recognition, a paper in the fall edition of JAR, aims to examine the precise impact such tactics have on viewers.

More specifically, authors Davit Davtyan and Isabella Cunningham (University of Texas/Austin) and Kristin Stewart (California State University/San Marcos) start with the long-held practice that messaging need not be compartmentalized into interruptive blocks but, in fact, may be effectively integrated into actual programming.

And from that starting point, they write, "The current study confirmed that brand placements in television sitcoms elicit lower levels of recall than – but similar levels of recognition to – a 30-second advertisement during a commercial break in the show."

But also recognizing that "recall plays a major role in consumer choice," Davtyan, Cunningham and Stewart suggest brand stewards "might enhance the persuasiveness of a message by employing synergistic strategies, such as using a brand placement in combination with a commercial.

"Combinations," they propose, "can be used as a cost-effective alternative to buying two spots in a commercial break. Moreover, such multi-source promotional strategies might result in enhanced elaboration on the messages."

Indeed, the three authors further suggest, "the ability of consumers to remember specific brands might be enhanced by a combination of brand placements and television commercials. This can be explained by the beneficial synergy effects of using a mixture of promotional tactics."

As evidence, they offer an examination of marketing in the FMCG category, in which "purchase decisions usually are made at stores where the brand name, logo, packaging, and other physical features of the products are physically present."

Likewise, "for established brands well known by consumers, eliciting brand recognition might effectively activate the memory of the brand and drive future sales.

"In such cases, marketers should consider using brand-placement tactics, as [such tactics] appear to be as effective at enhancing recognition as more costly commercials."

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