Oprah car giveaway sets product placement benchmark

MUMBAI: The Washington Post has called it the "product placement to end all product placements." But the question before marketers is did General Motors get the mileage when it plonked down a whopping $7.8 million -- the cost of 276 fully-loaded G6 Pontiac sedans --- as a giveaway on the 19th season premiere of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.



And the common consensus seems to be that it worked - for both GM and America’s celebrated TV diva. The premiere episode of the 19th season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, during which she gave away a car to each member of the audience, transported the show to an eight-year ratings high. As for GM, it reported an eight-fold increase in web traffic to its site Pontiac.com on Monday, the day the show premiered.



The $7.8 million giveaway is just the season's opener for a $50 million marketing and advertising campaign for the new car that will unfold over the next four months so the momentum that "Oprah" has given the yet to go on sale G6 will be kept up.

The G6 will also feature on the website Oprah.com for the next 90 days, and Pontiac is working with Winfrey's production company for further collaboration, Mark-Hans Richer, Pontiac's director of marketing, has been quoted in media reports as saying.



So what about the fact that daytime talk advertising is primarily the domain of smaller-priced consumer and household products that target women (Oprah's viewers are mainly women aged 25 to 54)? GM has a ready answer in that it is attempting to expand the demographic that samples the product to include women (remember Mandira and Max with cricket?). Certainly a valid argument considering the fact that interest in the G6 comes even as GM's US sales have slowed in recent months despite its high incentives.

And if one were to tally up the global media frenzy that surrounded the marketing stunt from press, television news and the viewership on the show itself, it has certainly been a more than value for money proposition for GM that has set a new benchmark in product placement.

To sum up, add a marketing feather to an already overstocked hat of the lady who has defined day time television in the US for the last two decades.

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