Promoting cigarette brands in TV shows yields unexpected results

By our News Team | 2022

TV product placement for cigarettes increases sales by 2% for the tobacco brand shown – as well as for rival brands, researchers find.

New research in the journal Marketing Science, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Washington in the US, finds a 10% increase in TV product placement for cigarettes increases sales by 2% for the tobacco brand shown on-screen. Furthermore, it has the same effect on its direct competitors’ sales as well.

The study, entitled ‘Show and Sell: Studying the Effects of Branded Cigarette Product Placement in TV Shows on Cigarette Sales’, notes that, for the most part, these cigarette brands cannot engage in mass advertising such as TV ads, billboards or sports sponsorships.

Product Placement

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However, they still do benefit from TV product placement, which allows them to be seen by millions of American TV viewers.

“When people see product placement for a particular brand like Marlboro, retail sales of Marlboro products go up. However, what’s more surprising is that sales of other competitor cigarette brands also go up,” says Pradeep Chintagunta of the University of Chicago. 

Product placement encourages smoking in general

“This indicates that product placement isn’t just about getting people to shift the brands of cigarettes they use – but to get people to smoke more overall.”

The researchers combined NielsenIQ PlaceViews data on product placement with NielsenIQ Ad Intel data, then measured the exposure of consumers in different markets to tobacco product placement. This information was then merged with store sales data from Information Resources Inc. to measure the impact of product placement on cigarette sales.

“We find that this kind of product placement does increase the amount of cigarette sales. If regulators are interested in finding additional ways to reduce smoking rates, curtailing product placement for cigarette brands might be a fruitful option,” says Ali Goli, an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.

Based on these results, the study urges lawmakers to restructure regulations around cigarette promotions and product placements.

Find out more about the research paper here.