(EDITORIAL) How stories empower product cameos

The New York Times published an article online with a headline: “The Advertising Industry has a problem: People hate ads.” This was lifted from several insights during a session in last year’s Advertising Week conference in New York City. This huddle instigated an interesting discussion about advertising fatigue. A former magazine content officer shared a strong statement during the conference which earned a nod from some advertisers: “People hate advertising. And it’s all [the] advertiser’s fault.”

This advertising problem has even prompted some app creators to include an ‘ad-free’ option as a premium value for users who dislike commercial disruptions. Consumers pay more for less ad noise.

If this has been a tailing problem for the advertising industry, how do we make our ads work?

Michael Serazio, the author of ‘Your Ad Here: The Cool Sell of Guerilla Marketing’ said in his book: Interruption or disruption as the fundamental premise of marketing no longer works. In the age of cool, a 5-second hook must be established in your OLV so people won’t skip it. This is why I believe that Advertainment should take center stage in today’s marketing plan in the Philippines. It’s capable of giving organic engagement and more effective brand recall.

Advertainment, a fusion of advertising and entertainment, is a strategic way to engage consumers in the long run.

While marketers exhaust their creative juices to produce brand-initiated advertorials that aim virality and pull pop-culture references for relevance, advertising to a story-first content establishes brand love since treatments are non-intrusive. Doing product cameos in one’s favorite content creates a lingering brand recall in the public’s mind because the brand appears at the moment when consumers are most welcome to advertising. For as long as intrusions are palatable and storytellers have the full creative freedom, product associations in stories translate to positive feelings towards the brands.

I am a fan of Korean Dramas. One thing that I observed is how natural and seamless the product placements are in every episode.

Say, for example, in Crash Landing On You, the producers were able to position the South Korean chicken franchise Genesis BBQ as part of the plot by framing it as a must-try food stop for visitors like the North Koreans. There’s this scene outside the restaurant where a salivating North Korean soldier was accidentally tapped as a part-timer for bb•q Olive Chicken Café (Genesis BBQ) while searching for Captain Ri and Se Ri. The execution was seamlessly and comically done.

Another notable execution is Subway’s appearance in series such as Goblin and Descendants of the Sun where it’s positioned as a meet-up place where crucial conversations and heart-fluttering moments between main characters happen. Look at the product cameos of Tiffany & Co in Itaewon Class and The Alley Milk Tea in The King: Eternal Monarch. See how the staying power of advertainment benefited the brands.

The Alley in The King Eternal Monarch
Subway in Descendants of the Sun (among many others)

The subtle treatment as exemplified above proves that advertisements can fly if we serve stories, not ads. If a brand plays an integral role in a story, then the result would be more mutually pleasing to the advertisers and the audience. The sample executions above instilled an after-thought which, in effect, triggered some consumers to buy the product as seen on screen. Now that’s how we merge advertising and entertainment without messing the viewers’ experience and compromising brand objectives.

Pizza Alvolo in It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

Advertainment might be a familiar execution in the local scene. Do you remember the product placements in The Voice of the Philippines? Who would forget how the ad spots in Vic Sotto’s films stirred negative reactions? We may have explored this type of intersection, but the creative spins weren’t as tastefully done compared to the collaborative direction in some of our favorite foreign shows.

The recurring problem of the advertising industry is caused by the uninvited brand presence and off-putting treatments. We should also shift our mindset that advertising is more than just an “ad-space opportunity.” We should always start and end our sales pitch with an invitation to collaborate. I see this highly possible if we embrace Advertainment’s key role in our marketing strategy. Advertainment is more collaboration than a transaction.

As we integrate, it’s important to hinge these elements in order for advertainment to hit the right notes: Trust your storytellers. Choose a content partner that has legs for binge-watching and re-watching. Customize. Respect your audience. We have to be audience-first in order for our ad to work. Strike a good balance by choosing a more personal platform. Advertainment done with wit creates a favorable result for brands and a lasting effect on consumers.





Credits to Netflix and rightful owners of all the photos I used.

Hallyu Headspace, mostly BTS 💜