Consumers, Characters and Products: A Balance Model of Sitcom Product Placement Effects

B. Stern, C. A. RUSSELL

Journal of Advertising

Spring 2006, vol. 35, n°1, pp.7-21

Departments: Marketing

This study examines the influence of product placements in television serial comedies on consumer attitudes toward the products. Proposing a "Balance Model of Sitcom Product Placement Effects," the study integrates genre theory to analyze character-product associations in sitcoms, parasocial theory to consider consumer-character referential relations, and balance theory to address the main research issue of the way that characters' relations to placed products and consumers' relations to the characters affect consumers' attitudes to the products. The model is based on balance theory, in which attitude alignment is the explanation for links between a triad composed of the consumer, the sitcom character, and the placed product. The influence of two consumer-character variables (attitude and parasocial attachment) and two character- product variables (valence and strength of association) are tested in a real-world situation. The methodology uses real televised sitcoms as stimuli, real viewers as respondents, and a real-time on-line survey to measure the relationship among the variables. Study findings support the predictions that consumers align their attitudes toward products with the characters' attitudes to products and that this process is driven by the consumers' attachment to the characters