Music, OldVenue

Branding in music videos


What do Nicki Minaj’s Pills and Potions, Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here and Azealia Banks’ Yung Rapunxel all have in common? Aside from chart-topping and mainstream success, a pretty blatant product placement of Beats by Dr Dre. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, you will recognise the image; the speakers are shaped like a pill. The first few times may have not been so obvious but, as this trend has been picking up speed since 2008, some of these products are starting to feel much more familiar and are gaining air time too. Let’s try this the other way around. Think of the Eos lip balm, which comes in brightly coloured spheres that you twist in the middle. How many videos can you name that it appears in? Some artists are repeat offenders, cue to Miley Cyrus and her single We Can’t Stop and Nicki Minaj with Anaconda, but also JLo’s most recent Booty.

Now, these product placements may be annoying and in the worst cases downright distracting. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the music? What kind of an image is the artist trying to convey? Perhaps they even have a story line going! Of course, in certain cases like Kanye West’s art movie Runaway, a not-so-discreet zoom in on a brand name would have been inexcusable. But the truth is, these obvious attempts to sell us speakers, lip balms, phones or shoes tend to appear in light-hearted pop songs. The directors of these clips aren’t necessarily trying to create a story line rather than make a visually aesthetic and fun video. Remember, the music industry is a business. Musicians rely on personal branding. They create or maintain an image in order to attain a specific audience, be it pre-teen girls for One Direction or misfit teenagers for My Chemical Romance.

According to Brand-E’s report on Nielsen research, a product placement of five seconds can create a brand lift of 35%. As for the musicians, the exposure can pay between $15,000 to a quarter of a million dollars. So is this not simply a win-win between industries?We must think about the way we consume art—when was the last time you bought a CD? In a day and age where artists no longer make money on album sales because of illegal downloading and streaming platforms like Spotify and Deezer, product placement can be a reliable source of income to continue creating music and lavish music videos. Artists’ income sources, and our means of consumption, have changed, so naturally the music industry has had to adapt. Rather than vilifying the advertising, shouldn’t we find a better way to support artists?

– Eve Lacroix


Ah, the time old tradition of product branding in music videos. Suffice to say, if you spend your time watching the latest music videos, you’ve probably seen your fair share of products that are often not very subtly incorporated into music videos by popular recording artists. You of course have your serial offenders; a certain set of headphones and stereo equipment, a brand of vodka and an array of mobile phones, plus many, many more.Product branding in music videos is seemingly everywhere we turn, and you won’t be able to get more than five seconds into a music video by Miley Cyrus or Nicki Minaj before the ever so familiar face of product branding rears its head.

But what is so ‘bad’ about this form of product endorsement? Whilst some product branding placement can be rather clever and witty, most of it ends up being less subtle and more blindingly obvious, and ends up detracting attention from the music and video itself. You’ll be watching a poignant story one second, and the next they’ll both be swaying along to their new Beats Pill. It certainly doesn’t make for compelling viewing. The overt nature of product placement in videos also seems to make the mistake that the audience is an inherent idiot; one who is not able to see a product unless you use up a good few seconds of the video mindlessly focusing on it, until the video becomes almost unbearable to watch any longer.The audience is constantly reminded that capitalism is rife, and if you have the money, we have the space for it in our music video – no matter how out of place or ridiculous it is!

There’s a place for everything – Latest music systems in a jungle? No problem! Want to advertise your swanky new watch? Sure thing – we’ll make sure to solely focus on it for at least a couple of seconds – that way – no one will miss it! Although there is no sort of moral obligation in terms of product branding and how you should use it in music videos, there is a certain twinge of disappointment when you are reminded of the very real fact that recording artists are perfectly happy to take money or free gifts for a short appearance of said ‘gift’ in their music video, even if it makes no logical sense to have it in there. Offenders, at the very least think of a more creative way you can tie in the products if you absolutely have to feature them; shot after shot of identifiable product rarely makes anyone want to buy it, it just makes it annoying and distracting.

– Melissa Haggar


About Author

melissahaggar As the current VENUE Deputy Editor and former Film Editor, Melissa spends the majority of her free time sobbing over her mountain of MA work or indulging in cinematic outings. A self-professed lover of Gothic & Fantasy genres, Melissa naturally loves Harry Potter, aesthetically pleasing Instagram posts, and classical music. She also really wants to be Jessica Jones.

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May 2022
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