Yue Hang LAW
Image retrieved from encoretvb.com
Nowadays, the freedom and variety offered by technology have given consumers more control over what they choose to view and when to view it. As such, this limits the reach of commercial advertising, prompting marketers to resort to other methods of reaching their target audience. One tactic commonly used by brands and marketers is product placement, also known as embedded marketing, a marketing tactic used by companies that serves to integrate their brands or products into a non-advertising production to help gain recognition for their brands.
The TVB sitcom: Come Home Love: Lo and Behold many attempts of product placement throughout the show (Image retrieved from am730.com.hk)
The immediate benefit of this strategy is that audio and visual cues integrated into the media productions means that consumers are unable to avoid seeing the advertisement as the product is an integrated part of the show. Contrariwise, this means that consumers could become easily annoyed by product placements, and become in some more sensitive towards them.
Lo and Behold Characters using the services of the newly opened Green Community recycling centre (Image retrieved from the source)
This problem can be illustrated by one of the Hong Kong TVB sitcoms; Come Home Love: Lo and Behold. As one of TVB’s longest running and most popular sitcoms, the show has amassed the sponsorship of many brands to feature their products as part of the show. A recent episode featured a collaboration with the Environmental Protection Department on its “green community” recycling project, as the main characters, while discussing their tactics to outwit their bosses on a crazy one-minute sale at home, sent its youngsters downstairs to recycle their used items at the newly opened recycling plant. Upon airing, viewer reactions to the episodes were mixed- From praising the show’s ingenuity to introduce important social facilities to the public through such a direct method, to criticism over the product placement’s misalignment with the plot. That said, the episode had ultimately achieved its purpose, as viewer interest over the topic has sparked conversations following its release.
The latest Lo and Behold episode sparked reviews of distaste from netizens (Image retrieved from the SkyPost)
Riding on the success of their previous episode, two months later, the sitcom released another episode centred on promoting social messages from the government, from parodies encouraging citizens to take the COVID vaccine, to characters overtly praising the newly improved government-run ID collection point. Unlike previous forms of product placement in this sitcom which appeared discreetly and unobtrusive to the storyline, netizens were unimpressed with how the sitcom have so blatantly ruin their storyline by inserting numerous ads, calling it distasteful and rallying others to boycott the show.
Comments from netizens (Image retrieved from the SkyPost)
The difficulty of finding the perfect balance is multiplied for product placements advocating social issues, because of the sheer complexity of discreetly presenting the issue whilst ensuring its key message aligns with the content of the media. Given that consumers are becoming more sensitive to the presence of product placement in social media, they are more likely to distrust the messages conveyed in product placement upon realisation of endorsement.
It is imperative that marketers should find the thin balance between effectively conveying the brand’s message whilst simultaneously not appearing too obtrusive to the production’s original purpose.
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