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Product Placement, Now Starring in the Streaming Era

Brands are increasingly spending big bucks to get their goods featured in shows and films as the rules of marketing change and viewers’ attention fades.
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Photo illustration: 731; Photo: Paramount Pictures

Hiram Lodge, the manipulative crime lord who targets the fictional town of Riverdale, sits back in his office chair. After plotting his latest scheme with a cohort over submarine sandwiches, he takes a bite of a Doritos chip, holding the bag in clear view of the camera while looking away pensively.

Frito-Lay, which got the snack on the CW Network’s teen drama Riverdale with the help of the No. 1 product placement company BEN, hopes audiences noticed enough to crave their own bag of Doritos, but not so much that they became annoyed. That’s the delicate balance companies strike when using product placement, which is becoming an even more popular form of advertising thanks to factors including increasingly sophisticated data collection and the rise of streaming and mobile video.