Product Placements in Bollywood Movies: Dilution of the Message or a Clever Marketing?

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on March 31, 2015

Who doesn’t remember songs like Munni badnam from Dabangg and Fevicol in Dabangg 2 where the products were so cleverly placed in the song that it was not annoying as some direct advertisements tend to be. And so was the placement of BMW motorcycles in Dhoom-3, Mahindra Scooters in 3 idiots, Castrol in Tara Rum Pum, Tide in Chup Chup ke and numerous others which were context related and did not looked like an explicit advertisement.

Celebrity endorsement works for promotional events and advertisements. However people tend to skip advertisements or turn to other channels. It is a push strategy where the product is being pushed using celebrity endorsement. It comes under the ambit of direct marketing. Today there has been a shift from firms to consumers. Indirect marketing has proven to be more effective with changing trends like evolving of internet and social media and TV’s with the facility to record and watch shows where the customers can skip the direct advertisements.


Product placement is an advertising strategy where-in the products are subtly promoted in the movie or other media like television etc usually through appearance, verbal reference, recommendation or use. The media company is paid by the product company for the same. An effective product placement in movies is indirect marketing where the movie is chosen by audience for viewership, so it is more like a pull strategy. Product placement can be categorised broadly into three types: Active, Passive and Hyperactive.

Active product placement is when the product is used by actor/actress in the movie, for example Anushka Sharma uses Cannon Camera in Jab tak hai jaan or Farhaan Akhtar using Royal Enfield in Bhaag Milkha Bhag

Passive product placement is when the product or brand is integrated in the background like in two states, Alia Bhatt got her placement with Sunsilk and in Dostana, Priyanka Chopra worked for Verve Magazine.

Hyperactive product placement is when the actor is not only using the product but also telling its benefits or recommending the product in the movie. A very good example of this is Shahrukh Khan in his movie Chennai Express where he takes a minute or two to innumerate the benefits of Nokia Lumnia smart phone.

In a research it was observed that there are certain product categories which are mostly promoted more by use of product placement in movies than the others categories [1]; Research shows that these are (in descending order of frequency of use in bollywood movies): Automobile, Mobile Phones, Airlines, Laptops and Computers and TV Channels.

A product being used by actors in the movie is better than just advertising the product in the movie [2]. If we talk about celebrities using some branded products in the movies, which is relevant to the context such product placements has wider audience appeal. Example in movie Paa, Abhishek Bachhan promises Auro a Delhi trip and they were shown travelling in Kingfisher Domestic Flight.

Benefit of product placement in movies is that cannot be ignored or skipped by the audience, it registers in the audience mind (if the product or brand is noticed by the audience) and it links the celebrity brand image and value to the product that they are portrayed using. It does not appear like an advertisement whose aim is to lure customers and push them for sales. Also, India has a huge movie industry which is more than 100 years old, of the world’s total production, Bollywood accounts for 1% of the movies. So movies definitely have a greater audience reach and so are the product placements in such movies.

What kind of product benefits more from product placement? There was a research which found out that audiences want to identify themselves with certain characters and movies; hence “lifestyle” products benefit more from product placements in movies rather than daily-use products [2].

Now coming to which brands can derive more benefit from product placements, it has been observed by several researchers that smaller brands benefit more from effective placements as compared to bigger brands [2]. The reason could be it get connected with the movie and the celebrity, it gets an exposure to a huge audience and has greater recall. Sometimes it is observed that people after watching a movie enquire for the products used in the movie. So, smaller brands can increase audience awareness with effective product placement in movies.

There are certain risk and limitation with product placements in movies, if the movie is hit then the visibility is more, however if the movie is a flop the reach and visibility of movie is decreased and the effectiveness of product placement is diminished. Also pricing is difficult as predicting the movie success is not possible in advance. There are also ethical issues associated with product placement in movies like such promotions entails subliminal or subconscious promotional aspects and might affect consumer preference without their conscious knowledge.

With 1000 films on an average produced annually in India which is almost twice as Hollywood, Bollywood has lot of scope for product placement. If cashed on this opportunity, product placement will be an effective medium to have a long lasting impact on the audience.

This article has been authored by Sana Niazi from IIMK 



[2] Kaur, B. (2014). “Product Placement in Movies: The Bollywood Experience”. Global Journal of Finance and Management, ISSN 0975-6477 Volume 6, Number 1 (2014), pp. 53-58.

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