Generation Z perceptions of product placement in original Netflix content
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By 2019, $11.44 billion is predicted to be spent in the U.S. on product placement, a dramatic increase from the $4.75 billion spent in 2012 (Statista, Product). A 2016 survey revealed that among the general population in the U.S., 77 percent have heard of product placement (Statista, Familiarity), while another survey found 52 percent of North Americans trust product placement ads, with 49 percent taking action after viewing a product placement (Statista, 2018). Combined, these numbers demonstrate the growing proliferation of product placement among advertisers. According to Newell, Salmon & Chang (2006) product placement is “the insertion of branded products or services into mass media content with the intent of influencing consumer attitude or behavior” (p. 577). Despite its popularity, research has not kept pace with the expanding avenues of product placement (McCarty, 2004). Recent studies have focused on product placement in movie theaters, which ignores up-and-coming use in digital contexts like Netflix and Hulu (McCarty, 2004). Further, according to Wimmer and Dominick (2013), "high technology and the Internet have both contributed to substantial changes in mass media research,” especially in the advertising research field (para 36). Additionally, early exposure to technology has changed the brain structures of young consumers, making them fundamentally different from the respondents used in previous research studies (Prensky, 2001). These shifts leave ample opportunity for new exploration concerning product placement and digital streaming media. The purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which Generation Z perceives product placement in original Netflix content, the study’s context. According to Matrix (2014), “The growing consumer preference for over-the-top (OTT) streaming services (instead of cable bundles) and video on demand (instead of appointment viewing) is having a disruptive effect on traditional television scheduling, ratings, advertising, and cable subscriptions” (p. 119). As viewers migrate to OTT services like Netflix, the industry’s flagship and most popular medium, mass media advertisers are forced to reconsider traditional tactics, like commercial breaks, and rely on less intrusive methods of advertisement, like product placement (Radošinská, 2017). Investigating the types of product placement that appeal to the next generation gives streaming mediums the first look at what advertising will be like in the years to come. An information processing method is used to study this phenomenon with in-depth interviews.