Hidden Messages

Hidden Messages

The Trend of Product Placement in the Ethiopian Cinema

Product placement refers to the strategic placement of a particular good, service or location in a film or television show for the purpose of advertising. The phenomenon is common in the American film industry and appears to be taking root in Ethiopia. There’s evidence to suggest that product placement, when done correctly, can prove a fruitful method for a company to advertise its products or services. However, there is also a downside to this advertising method, as it may turn away potential customers from a particular product if done in a haphazard manner. EBR’s Meseret Mamo spoke with filmmakers and advertisers about the growing trend of product placement in Ethiopia.

Have you ever watched an Ethiopian film or television show and seen a familiar product or location being used or frequented by the characters? If your answer is yes, it means you have been exposed to an advertising method known as product placement, which is incorporating a particular product or service into the plot of a film or television show for the purpose of advertising.
Although it is in its infancy in Ethiopia, product placement in films and television shows is garnering the attention of many companies who seek alternative methods of promotion. ‘Lamba’, a recently released film that depicts the trauma of kidney failure, is an example of the growing trend of product placement in Ethiopian film and television production.
In the film, there is a scene where Betselot, a character played by Lidya Moges, is searching for a suit for her brother. Lydia’s character goes to Ambassador Garment, which is located nearby. And at this time the logo of the company, ‘Ambassador,’ comes on the screen. She even visualizes her brother wearing the suit and walking. Betselot visits the shop and asks for the price of the suit she likes the most. But even after she learned the price of the suit is beyond her capacity, she continued to stare at the shop from the outside.
One of the main differences of this kind of advertisement from other marketing strategies is the significance of factors contributing to it, such as the context and environment within which the product is displayed or used in a film or television show.
The way Wegagen Bank is viewed in ‘Lamba’ is an example of this. After Betselot was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease later in the movie, her older brother, Girum, played by Girum Ermias, is seen withdrawing money from one of the branches of Wegagen Bank to pay for her medical expenses. The Bank’s account book is also seen repeatedly while Girum makes the transaction. This scene depicts a real-life service offered by the Bank.
Although it may seem like a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia, the practice of product placement has been part of films or television shows for years. Different recreational places, products and services are used every day by movie makers in order to depict the reality.
But in the past, filmmakers used certain services, locations or products randomly, usually uninfluenced by commercial or financial interests.
However, this scenario has been changing recently, as more companies are becoming aware of the benefits of product placement in films that are produced for mass consumption. “Lately, we started to consider product placement in movies as one part of our promotional package, hoping that filmgoers will buy what they see on screen,” says Teferi Girma, head of promotion and supportive division at Ambassador Garment and Trade PLC. “We will use this strategy in the future in order to promote our products.”
Teferi’s comments demonstrate that although product placement isn’t a brand new technique, its usage is becoming more commonplace because companies are starting to consider it as an alternative to more traditional modes of advertising. Usually, such types of product placements are often initiated through an agreement between a product manufacturer and the film maker in which the producers receives some economic benefit, such as money, or free products and services.
The brief appearance of products like St. George Beer and Abyssinia Vodka in recently released films like “Adinas” and “Aleme,” also shows companies in Ethiopia are increasingly turning to product placement in films to promote their products and services.
“Since our product cannot be advertised using traditional promotion methods such as television or radio, we consider product placement in films as one alternative,” says Henok Yetbarek, manager of Hen Sea Land Business Plc, which produces Abyssinia Vodka. “We recently worked with producers of ‘Fikir Ena Genzeb’ to place our product in the film.” Henok also stresses that the company is willing to pay if a film promotes their product effectively whether they have a prior deal or not.
The fact that moviegoers are a captive audience is one of the factors that makes product placement effective, according to Christine Yohannes, communications manager of MultiChoice Ethiopia, who has an MSc in Marketing and Strategy from Institut d’Administration des Entreprises of Poitiers, France. “With this strategy a product or service can reach a large number of people over a long period,’’ Christine argues. “Multiple exposures to films also promises better results as opposed to products advertised using other channels.”
According to a study entitled “Product Placement in the Movie Industry” prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network that provides advisory services, there are three types of product placements in films. The first is visual placement, which is a simple placement of the product, service or logo for a brief moment. Spoken placement, which entails mentioning the product or the company during the movie, is the second type of product placement. The third type, which is usage placement, occurs when the actors interacts with the product or service.

3rd Year • July 16 – August 15 2015 • No. 29

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