Product Placement—Challenger-Brand Style

May 17, 2016 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

All the big-dog brands do it—Coca Cola, Apple, Nike—you’ve seen their products on TV or in the movies. Savvy consumers can spot product placements right away, but that doesn’t mean the impression is any less valuable. Currently its reported that as much as 75 percent of broadcast-network shows feature some form of product placement, and a shift is happening.

SNL recently announced that they are cutting back on commercials by 30 percent in exchange for more sponsored content; other shows and networks are expected to follow suit.   The simple law of supply and demand indicates that the price of traditional ads will increase.

Fortunately, challenger brands never turn away from a challenge; they find a way to outthink rather than outspend the competition.

Let’s take a look at the types of traditional product placement, and you just might see an opportunity for your challenger brand.

Sports integration—Jerseys, signage, giveaways. A big sports gathering gives your brand a front-row seat for a captive audience. We recently got a kick out of this unique product placement by airline challenger, Emirates.

Storyline integration – When a product plays a significant role in the storyline. In a great example from Sex and the City, Miranda bestows her love on TiVo.


Character integration – A movie or TV character expresses a preference for a product. Some might find this example from the TV show, New Girl a little obvious.

Unmentioned integration – When a brand logo is visible, but never blatantly referenced. Just like the judge’s Coca Cola cups you remember on American Idol.



Challenger Thinking 
Unless you have millions of dollars lying around in your marketing budget, most challenger brands will need to apply some creativity to make product placement attainable.

Invest in materials. At its core, product placement is all about showing off your product and its use. Make space in your budget to give away some freebies. Consider all the ways that you can get your product out of the box, allow people to experience it risk free, and you’ll have them coming back for more whether it’s chicken nuggets, headphones, or massages. You’ll also gain from the real-time product feedback.

Join events. Whether it’s a fraternity house, beauty pageant, or golf course, identify places where your your potential brand champions are gathered and take your product there. Find ways to help your product work the room at any event big or small.

Redefine celebrity. In the world of Internet famous, influencers come in all forms and have too many niche audiences to count. Keep in mind that an influencer could be the captain of the football team or even the PTA president. The movie Mean Girls shows a funny example of an influencer in action.

Make it original. You know you’re on the right track if your product placement makes people look twice such as this one from Oreo.


Advertising is changing, but challenger brands know better than anybody how to turn their position into an advantage and do what others can’t or won’t. Are you ready for the challenge?


brand integrationproduct placementTV advertisingTV commercials

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.