As season 4 of House of Cards was released, the details behind one of the new Brands in the show made headlines. As reported by Business Insider, The Verge, Tech Times and many more outlets, OnePlus announced on its Weibo page that it had spent $300,000 to get its handsets into the latest batch of HOUSE OF CARDS episodes.
Let us first note that it is quite unusual for a Brand to give such specific details regarding a product placement arrangement. Brands are usually more than happy to boast their links with TV series, movies and music videos, but very silent on how exactly their products ended up in the spotlight. In OnePlus’ case, by choosing to go against this convention, they got a huge boost in publicity as websites ranging from mobile phones specialist to entertainment outlets reported on the deal.
Now that the dust has settled on the HOUSE OF CARDS release, Concave Brand Tracking has dissected this deal to see what OnePlus got for its money, how this compares to traditional TV advertising and what this rare price tag for product placement means for other Brands in HOUSE OF CARDS.
What did OnePlus get for its money?
Concave Brand Tracking combs through every single episode of HOUSE OF CARDS every season recording all recognizable Branded products that appeared in the show. In addition to recording sighted Brands, we observed how visible the products were, whether or not their logos/names were visible and how long they were on screen, as well as an array of contextual data regarding their portrayal.
With this information, Concave Brand Tracking can exclusively report that OnePlus products had over 6 1/2 minutes of screen time across the 4th season of HOUSE OF CARDS. This was the 13th most for any Brand and such global Brands as Diet Coke, Sony and Ford. Most of the Brands with more screen time than OnePlus can be found in Concave Brand Tracking’s ranking of the top 10 most visible Brands in season 4 of HOUSE OF CARDS. OnePlus did unfortunately not make Concave’s top 10 list, and this is due to other factors than just the Brand’s screen time.
When looking at the overall visibility of a Brand, Concave also factors in whether or not Brands’ logos or names are visible and how discernible their product are. In OnePlus’ case, despite having well over 6 minutes of screen time, it’s logo was never seen. This means viewers who are unfamiliar with the handsets will not be aware of what Brand they are seeing on screen. As for discernibility, OnePlus handsets were shown subtly – meaning they were clearly visible and/or in use – in 70% of the Brand’s screen time. In the remaining 30% of screen time, the phones were only shown discreetly.
All of the above resulted in OnePlus being the 12th most visible Brand in season 4 HOUSE OF CARDS behind Apple, Blackberry and Samsung, but ahead of Nokia/Microsoft.
As for its users, OnePlus handsets were seen in the hands of Neve Campbell (as Leann Harvey), LisaGay Hamilton (as Celia Jones), Robin Wright (as Claire Underwood) and Cicely Tyson (as Doris Jones). As such, OnePlus is portrayed almost exclusively as a professional Brand in contexts of politics and used only by women.
Was it worth it?
Here lies the golden question. Many news outlets that reported this initial story used terms such as “big bucks” and “paying through the nose” to describe OnePlus’ product placement fee. To assess whether or not this is accurate we need to consider the advertising value of OnePlus’ visibility and how much they would have paid for it elsewhere.
While OnePlus had 6 1/2 minutes of screen time in season 4 of HOUSE OF CARDS this cannot be compared to 6 1/2 of commercials. This is because, as we mentioned above, the OnePlus logo was never shown nor were the products particularly visible. However, Concave Brand Tracking has developed an in-house model to reconcile the advertising value of Brand integration in entertainment and traditional TV spots. Using this model we find that OnePlus’ visibility in HOUSE OF CARDS equates to 1 minute and 7 seconds of traditional TV spots.
Now this only covers the actual exposure the Brand had on screen. Another critical factor to determining a $ value for advertising is viewership.
The cost of a 30-second spots during a TV program depends highly on the viewership of that program. The problem here is that the viewership figures of Netflix series, including HOUSE OF CARDS are till one of the most elusive secrets in the industry. So instead of being able to say exactly how much it would have cost OnePlus to get the equivalent Brand visibility in front of an equivalent audience, let’s see how much it would have cost to simply get the equivalent Brand visibility in an array of popular TV shows.
As the chart above shows, for OnePlus to get the equivalent Brand visibility in TV-spots during an episode of EMPIRE’s 2015-2016 season, it would have cost them well over 1 million dollars. According to Nielsen, EMPIRE’s current season has averaged just under 12 million viewers per episode. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have THE SIMPSONS for which OnePlus would have had to pay around $350,000 for equivalent Brand visibility. THE SIMPSONS’ latest season averaged under 5 million viewers per episode, less than any other show in the above chart. It must be noted that viewership quality, does not only come down to pure numbers, but also the demographics of who is watching.
What we can say then is that assuming that HOUSE OF CARDS is performing as well as an average prime-time TV program, OnePlus is getting between $400,000 and $800,000 in TV advertising value from its $300,000 product placement fee. If HOUSE OF CARDS is doing as well, if not better than a hit like EMPIRE, then it is getting a bargain with over 3 times worth its investment in advertising value. Even if they are at the lower end, and performing more like THE SIMPSONS they are still getting a little more bang for their buck in HOUSE OF CARDS than if they had spent on TV spots. Furthermore, there is also value in all the buzz around the story of OnePlus’ placement that is not factored in here.
What does OnePlus’ product placement mean for other Brands in HOUSE OF CARDS?
We have pushed the boundaries of theoretical comparisons in order to see how much OnePlus would have paid for the same amount of exposure in TV advertising as it got from its HOUSE OF CARDS product placement. However, there is another line of investigation which is much closer to home. As Concave Brand Tracking has recorded the visibility of all Brands in HOUSE OF CARDS, it is very easy for us to see how much other Brands’ visibility was worth when indexed to OnePlus’ fee. Many of these Brands will not have paid any fee at all, rather giving or even simply lending products for production. The chart below shows you how much the visibility of top 10 Brands in HOUSE OF CARDS season 4 is worth relatively to OnePlus’ fee and their resulting visibility.
Considering how much visibility OnePlus had in season 4 of HOUSE of CARDS and that they paid $300,000 for it, one can extrapolate that Samsung’s visibility was worth almost 2.4 million dollars. Apple, which was the 2nd most visible Brand, had 1.6 million dollars worth of exposure. Dell, CNN and Avaya all had over a million while Chevrolet, Blackberry, C-SPAN, Fiji Water and Microsoft had between $300,000 and $800,000 worth of visibility. Please note that all of these are merely theoretical values.
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