Generation Y students’ attitudes and behavioural responses towards product placement
Mareka, Thabang Theophilllus
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Over recent years the traditional advertising industry has suffered some setbacks due to media clutter, mass audience fragmentation, a growth in negative consumer attitudes toward traditional advertising as well as their defence against television (TV) advertising by zipping and zapping through the use of digital recording systems. The progressive loss of a passive audience, therefore, has unequivocally challenged advertising professionals to seek more innovative and effective solutions to brand communication strategies and product placement has presented itself as such. Product placement involves brands being placed in various media content such as movies, TV shows, songs, videogames, websites, magazines and/or novels in an effort to create brand awareness, brand association and, ultimately, brand loyalty. This study endeavoured to explore the use of product placement as an alternative advertising and brand communication tool that has the potential of breaking through the inadequacies of traditional advertising and succeed in the battle to capture an audience’s attention and influence their consumption-related behaviour. Various studies have suggested that there are differences in the way in which consumers react to product placement based on various demographic factors, including geographic, cultural and even generational differences. With this in mind, the primary objective of this study was to propose and empirically test a model of the relationships between Generation Y students’ attitudes and behavioural responses towards product placement in movies and TV shows and the factors of perceived ethics, entertainment, realism, character-product associations and materialism of product placements, as well as attitude towards TV advertising in the South African context. Globally, there are indications that this generation has significant current and future purchasing power and that they exert an influence on the purchasing behaviour of not only their peers but also members of other generations. The focus on university students as a market segment was based on the assumption that a graduate qualification typically correlates to a higher future earning potential and, consequently, higher future disposable income, rendering them a significantly lucrative target segment. The sampling frame for the study comprised the 26 public registered higher education institutions (HEIs) situated in South Africa. From this initial list of 26 registered institutions, a judgement sample of three campuses from three HEIs in the Gauteng province was chosen. These included a campus from a traditional university, one from a university of technology and one from a comprehensive university. A convenience sample of 450 students across these three campuses was taken in 2018. Of the questionnaires completed, 397 were usable. The statistical analysis of the collected data included principle component analysis, descriptive statistical analysis, correlation analysis, canonical correlation analysis and an independent samples t-test. Findings of this study suggest character-product association, perceived entertainment, perceived realism, perceived materialism and, to a much lesser extent, attitude towards TV advertising have a direct positive relationship with dependent variate and perceived ethicality a direct negative relationship and, as such, are predictors of South African Generation Y students’ attitudes and purchase intentions toward product placement in movies and TV shows. Furthermore, male and female participants did not differ significantly on any of these dimensions. The findings of this study contribute to the limited literature available concerning product placement effectiveness in the South African market, with specific reference to the factors that contribute to Generation Y students’ positive attitudes and purchase intentions towards product placement. The model developed in the study represents an important tool for predicting Generation Y’s attitudes and behavioural responses towards the placements of brands across a range of entertainment content, including but not limited to movies and TV shows in the South African context. The model may also have value in shedding some light for policy makers with regards to the ethical concern and regulatory frameworks around the placement of brands in non-commercial content. Moreover, an understanding in this regard will enable marketers to realise the opportunities presented by product placement techniques in developing markets such as South Africa and thus tailor their brand communication strategies to maximise effectiveness. The study also seeks to shed some light to policy makers with regards to the perceptions of consumers to the regulation of product placement, thereby making legislative contributions in this regard.