Covert Advertising


De Dana Dan, Wake Up Sid, Dhoom, Phir Hera Pheri and Matrix are some excellent examples of movies with covert advertising. Brands such as Coca Cola, ICICI Bank, Domino’s, Nokia, Aston Martin and Suzuki have placed themselves in these movies. Nowadays, these tactics are common in most of the films. Some very well managed product placements appear to be quiet natural, if not logical. But some seem to be badly inspired by a commercial spin-off, with all the negative consequences it may generate on the audience. Take for instance, the Hollywood flick, ‘What Women Wants’.

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This Mel Gibson starrer has a Nike commercial as a part of the script. It gets with the script so well that you don’t realize you’re watching a commercial camouflaged in the screenplay. Now the Bollywood flick, the girls beating the boys fighting sequence in ‘Chak De’ has been referred to as the McDonald’s fight scene merely because it takes place in one of the outlets. Again there is no mention of McDonald’s in the entire film as it has been seamlessly embedded.


Over the years Advertising has emerged as a key component of integrated Marketing communication. Moreover, it has adjusted with the changing economic environment and consumer behavior. The clutter in the product market and media has made the task challenging for marketers to reach their consumers. Thus both the Media and Advertiser’s search for innovative advertising techniques led to ‘Covert Advertising’. Covert Advertising is a medium through which branded products are placed in movies, which is visible to consumers without any distraction. Leveraging on the entertainment value, emotional quotient of the film and its psychological impact on viewers has led the advertisers to utilize this medium.

The phenomenon is gaining momentum due to its clutter free feature and advantages of celebrity endorsement for the product or brand in a movie. This advertising technique brings in an additional source of income for film producers, advertisers, corporate’s and it has proved to be a technique to strengthen their brand. A few firms get product placement at no cost by supplying their product to the movie company (Nike does not pay to be in movies but often supplies shoes, jackets, bags, etc).

Scripts are tailor made for the desired brand so that when they are incorporated they look natural. It is done through special mention in the programs, placement of logo or may be a shot of that particular brand. Movies have been used as the most popular platform for product placement. Showman Subhash Ghai’s Yaadein showcased brands like Pass-pass and coca-cola. But recall the Rishi Kapoor starrer Karz by the filmmaker, which had an entire song sequence with the Emami banner at the backdrop.

Similarly time and again we have witnessed so many brands like ICICI, Yamaha, Pepsi, Lays in movies Aakhein, Baghban, Dhoom, Khushi and Krissh respectively. Product placement, as the numbers suggests is bringing revolutionary change in entertainment economics. Objectives of the study The following are the objectives of this research study :

  • To study the present scenario of covert advertising in the world.
  • To study the future prospects of covert advertising and their scope for the multimedia.
  • To study the techniques used by the film makers, directors and companies.
  • To measure the success of advertising campaign of brands in Terms of consumer appreciation.
  • To study the determinants of specification factors which can decide the success of both the companies and movies.


Covert Advertising is the inclusion of a product, brand name or the name of the firm in a movie for increasing memorability of the brand and instant recognition at the point of purchase. It is an advertising technique in which the companies pay a fee or provide service in exchange for a prominent display of their product.

For example, in a film, the main character can use an item or other of a definite brand, as in the movie Minority Report, where Tom Cruise’s character John Anderton owns a phone with the Nokia logo clearly written in the top corner, or his watch engraved with the Bulgari logo. Some Latest Indian Examples: Swades, for instance, shows the hero holding a FedEx packet while travelling in a train in India. Waqt mentioned brands such as Archies, In another movie Hungama had Videocon, Coca-Cola in the film Taal, Cadbury in Parineeta, etc.

Maruti Swift made its Indian debut with the release of the film Bunty aur Babli. Rumour has it that Maruti had delayed the launch of this new model to time it with the release of the film. SRK using Santro cars in a RNBDJ and Chalte Chalte. Hollywood example of advertising in film is in I, Robot, where main character played by Will Smith mentions his Converse shoes several times, calling them “classics,” because the film is set far in the future. Cadillac chose to advertise in the movie The Matrix Reloaded, which as a result contained many scenes in which Cadillac cars were used.

Similarly, product placement for Omega Watches, Ford, VAIO and BMW. Aston Martin cars are featured in recent James Bond films, most notably Casino Royale. Hayabusa in Dhoom, John Abraham uses Hayabusa in the movie as a thief, from that time only many of Indians came to know about that bike.


Lamborghini Domino’s Pizza in Phir Hera Pheri Domino’s is known as much for the quality of its pizzas, as for its promise of “delivery within 30 minutes or free”. Paresh Rawal—who is also the Domino’s brand ambassador—was seen in the movie happily munching on a Domino’s pizza.

On being asked how he could afford a pizza even though he was broke, he informed that after ordering the pizza he hid himself till 30 minutes passed. Thus he got the pizza free even though the delivery boy had arrived well in time. The execution of this scene not only communicated the Domino’s value proposition but also created a light moment in the film with the seamless integration of branding and entertainment. Baghban for ICICI Bank, Amitabh Bachchan is shown as a trustworthy, reliable and focused ICICI bank employee who is dedicated to his customers. ICICI is visible for around 8-10 minutes in the film. Consumer electronics and computers

The 2006 film Casino Royale features many Sony product placements throughout, all characters use VAIO laptops, Sony Ericsson cell phones and GPSs, BRAVIA televisions, and Bond uses a Cyber-shot to take photos. Apple’s products frequently appear in films and on television. In video games, products that most often appear are placements for processors or graphics cards. For example in EA’s Battlefield 2142, ads for Intel Core 2 processors appear on map billboards. In the video game F. E. A. R all of the laptops have a Dell screensaver on them. Tourism New Zealand as a destination was positioned well in the movie ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’.

In fact such was the impact it became a popular holiday destination after that. Previously it was not widely spoken of or considered as potential location among the film makers or tourists from India. Now it is being considered by students for higher studies and also by low skilled job seekers.

So they must’ve insisted on special close-ups and zooms for their brands. As a result we get a good dose of Castrol, Goodyear and Chevrolet periodically. Yaadein : Covert Advertising in Video games Today, advertisers are much more interested in the $24 billion video game industry. Spending on in-game product placement was estimated at $300 million this year, with projections of $1 billion in spending by 2010. Nielsen ratings in 2003 showed a 7% decline in television viewing among 18 to 34 year-old males.

This decline was directly attributed to the growing popularity of video games. 6% of males 18-34 own at least one game console, as do 80% of males ages 12-17. In 2006, 62. 3 million game consoles were sold. Currently, there are over 148 million gamers. As gamers age, become parents and continue to play games, older demographics become more highly represented while increasing the overall reach of the video game medium.


And so on…… Connection between Brands and Films There is a evidence of shortened attention spans and a greater efforts to break through the clutter of multitudinous brands and media vehicles. The best way to deliver the message is to catch the customer off-guard when the rational defenses are down. The best to do so is to use the emotional gate rather than the rational gate. The rational gate examines the advantages, benefits, features and seeks value for money; the emotional gate is all about trust, love, identification and belief. These aspects have been leveraged by all kinds of brands wherein movies and brands flash identical messages at their target audiences. There is a need to examine synergies between the brands and films.

The successful integration of product placement within the film’s storyline has a long history – the first example being the yellow Rajdoot bike used in Raj Kapoor’s Bobby and Subhash Ghai’s Hero and Karz. Hollywood also leveraged brands such as BMW(Bond movies), Jaguar, Ford, McDonald in Eddie Murphy (Coming to America), Ray Ban (Tom Cruise in Risky Business and Mission Impossible), Starbucks coffee, AOL, AT & T and lots in advertising world arena. Artistic integrity is crucial for successful brand successful brand placements and the operation has to be woven into the script.

There is no fixed formula but the factors that are taken into consideration during the negotiation stage include: cast and credits; size of the projects and the producers; timing of the release; brand impact; number of screen during release and post – release phase; and the possibilities of brand associations through contests and promotions. Depending on the content of the film and its story line, the agency can sketch a profile of viewers who could appeal to the targeted viewers. This is followed by a 360 degree marketing plan for cross promotions during the various stage of a film’s release.

The celebrities endorse products and brands with commercial reasons, which normally comes in the breaks in television programmes or cinema halls. The phenomenon of zipping and change in television usage behavior due to surfing during the commercial breaks has reduced effectiveness of television commercials.

Similarly commercials of cinema halls are found to be of low involvement as audience takes them as blocks between the reasons of visiting the cinema hall and the time available to them entertainment. So the brand communication and the entertainment product are viewed differently from audience of both media. Brand placements provides an opportunity where the involved audience gets exposure to the brands and products during the natural process of narration of movie or television commercial.


A product placement is the inclusion of a product, brand name or the name of the firm in a movie for increasing memorability of the brand and instant recognition at the point of purchase. It is an advertising technique in which the companies pay a fee or provide service in exchange for a prominent display of their product. Product placement appears in plays, film, television series, music videos, video games and books. Product placement occurs with the inclusion of a brand’s logo in shot, or a favorable mention or appearance of a product in shot. This is done without disclosure, and under the premise that it is a natural part of the work.

Most major movie releases today contain product placements. The most common form is movie and television placements and more recently computer and video games. There are three ways product placement can occur :

  • The placement simply happens This placement occurs without any type of formal contractual agreement to place a particular product or brand. The likely scenario in this instance involves some member of the cast or crew selecting a product to use in a scene because it will enhance the scene though the product itself may not be seen or presented in a favorable light. The placement is arranged and some of the product serves as compensation. This type of placement a particular product is shown in the Movie/ Serial and no extra amount is paid for that. The product itself serves as compensation.
  • The placement is arranged and there is financial compensation. In this type of product placement the company has to pay for the placement apart from the product. Types of Product Placement Corporate Advertising: To improve company reputation. Ex – Taj Hotels used for grand parties in movies, Lenovo used in game shows like KBC.

Product/ Service placement: To demonstrate the characteristics of a product/ service. Showing a particular Bank (like ICICI in KBC) or Dominos in Phir Hera Pheri. Cross Advertising: To include facts, opinions or statements in a plot. Discussing a forthcoming movie like ‘Kuch Toh Hai’ in a television serial like ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ is an Indirect promotion for the movie. Negative placement : To present a competitor’s product in a negative context. It is generally not intentional. For instance if a particular flight crashes in a particular plot in the movie, it is not intentional. Innovation placement: To introduce a new product. Ex Swift Car was introduced in the movie ‘Bunty Aur Babli’.


Fashion (2008) No. of Prints – 700 Budget – 220 million Cast – Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Mugdha Godse, Arbaaz Khan Director – Madhur Bhandarkar Producer – Ronnie Screwvala “Fashion” has got an ‘A’ certificate that limited his audience size, but director-producer Madhur Bhandarkar who made this Rs. 220 million movie, earned as much as Rs. 5 million (Rs. 8. 5 crores) from in-film advertisement alone. A co-production of UTV Motion Pictures and Bhandarkar Entertainment, “Fashion” has six prestigious brand placements – clothing brands Kimaya and Reebok, Lenovo laptop, Sunsilk shampoo, Cellucom and LG Electronics. The brands have been chosen carefully so they are relevant to the scenes where they will be displayed, without causing a jarring note.

The research purpose indicates that this study is primarily descriptive. A descriptive study is undertaken in order to ascertain and be able to describe the characteristics of the variables of interest in a situation. The research draws some conclusions from the data collected which makes it descriptive. Extent of researcher interference The extent of researcher interference is minimal in this study. Respondents were made aware of the topic “product placement”. Oral examples like the brand Nikon which is displayed on Ranbir Kapoor’s camera in the movie Wake Up Sid will be explained. The events were studied as they normally occur.

The questionnaire was primarily and some questions were framed by the researchers through brainstorming. A five point Likert-type scale was used, with ‘strongly agree’ at point one; ‘agree’ at point two; ‘neither agree nor disagree’ at point three; ‘disagree’ at point four; and ‘strongly disagree’ at point five. Another five point scale with points like “always, mostly, sometimes, rarely and never” was used. Certain direct questions were given only two options “yes” or “no”. Data analysis This data was entered into SPSS, and the required computations had been completed in SPSS itself.

Descriptive statistics like mean, median and standard deviation. Also graphical representations like pie charts, bar graphs and histograms were used. Cross tabulation was executed. Study setting The research was carried out in a natural environment with minimal interference of the researcher which shows that it is a field study in a noncontrived setting. SAMPLE Our sample consists of 50 students, 25 male and 25 female. The motivation for this selection was that respondents were thought to be an appropriate sample since young adults (18 to 24 years of age) are avid film attendees.

Respondents also possess the disposable income to attend films. Product placement in films is therefore an effective way to target young, affluent and well educated consumers. The data thus collected is primary in nature. It was entered into SPSS, and the required computations were completed in SPSS itself.


Age of Respondent Maximum respondents are of the age 21. Do you notice products placed in a movie Most of the respondents notice the products placed in the movie Does product placement disrupt the flow of movie and irritate you?

Most of the respondents feel that product placement rarely hinders the flow of the movie Do you know that product placement is a method of Advertising? Almost all respondents are aware of product placement as a method of advertising Other Findings Discuss with others after the movie It is inferred that 83. 3% females always discuss products after watching movies which is very high compared to 16. 7% males who rarely discuss the products. Influenced by The respondents have ranked talk shows to be the most influencing medium.

The next influential media are movies and music videos. Soaps and theatre plays are the least influential. Factors that influence your buying behavior The respondents give primary importance to the product and then the brand followed by the celebrity. Product brought after watching them in movies It is seen that females mostly have purchased FMCG products whereas men have purchased electronic goods.


Advertising occupies a major place in Integrated Marketing Communication strategy of corporate It has evolved in sync with the changing media environment.

They are constantly in search of innovative technique which has grabbed the attention in recent years is ‘Covert Advertising’. A conclusion drawn from the research was that products placed prominently in films were better recognized than those placements placed subtly within the context of the film. Another aspect closely considered in this research was the effect product placements have on the realism of the film. Why are covert advertising successful? Low cost per exposure. Catches the audience when its rational defenses are down. It can help target particular employees as movies are made keeping in mind different genre’s of people. Movies are an expensive affair, and any source of revenue is welcome by film makers.


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Covert Advertising. (2018, Feb 19). Retrieved from