The recent Subway placements in History Channel’s Pawn Stars have been anything but well-executed. The most valuable product placements are those that appear seamless, as if the product is actually supposed to be part of a show/scene. Subway’s have stuck out like a Humane Society mutt at a fancy dog show.
When placements aren’t made blatantly obvious, viewers are less likely to realize they are being marketed to, which prevents them from critically analyzing a brand message (many scholars study this phenomenon in terms of one’s persuasion knowledge, or PK, being activated). Once persuasion knowledge is activated, potential consumers become much more defensive about being sold to. The ethical concerns surrounding such strategies are legitimate, but very few brands have actually faced that much criticism for using them.
I’m willing to bet that if you were asked to think of really good product placements that you’d have trouble doing so. Not because you haven’t seem them, but because you didn’t realize they were placements. I’m convinced those offer the most marketing value for brands.
I don’t blame the Old Man and Co. for making a buck off Subway, but the way those breakfast sandwiches were written into the show was amateur at best.