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Product placement is a form of advertising where a product or service is subtly integrated into the storyline of a movie or TV show. It is an effective way of marketing a product, as it doesn't appear as an ad but as a natural part of the story. Product placements can range from a hero using a particular car brand to the heroine wearing a specific brand of clothing.

In India, Hindi cinema has been a significant platform for branding and product placements. From featuring famous actors promoting brands to subtle product placements in scenes, Hindi cinema has incorporated various techniques to promote and advertise products. The use of brand placements in Hindi cinema has also been criticised for its potential to compromise the artistic integrity of films. Some filmmakers have been accused of incorporating brand placements into their films in a way that disrupts the flow of the narrative or compromises the quality of the film.

However, in recent times, we have seen a shift in the consumption patterns of millennials from traditional cinemas to OTT. Consequently, brands too are also increasingly opting for OTT content as an avenue for placing their product. As the cost of production continues to rise, both showrunners and platforms will increasingly look for ways to offset these costs and brand placements provide a viable solution.

The golden rule of product placement is that the product integration must be seamless and not interrupt the audience’s experience of the story and plotline. Let’s see if product placement in OTT films and content follows this golden rule or not.

Here are some examples of product placements in OTTs in recent times:


Alia Bhatt starrer Darlings which released directly on Netflix, featured a lot of product placements in the film. For instance, when Alia has to get ready to surprise her husband for a romantic date, she orders a red dress from Amazon and also gets Manforce’s condoms.

The integration of products in the film are quite smooth as there is no extra ‘advertising’ quality in the placements. No one is listing out features of Amazon or how Manforce condoms are better than their competition. The placement is very much a part of the narrative and that is why it works. The placement is perhaps also targeted towards the tier-2 audiences who might have access to Netflix, to showcase the character of Alia, who is not economically well off yet she can also use these products. The embedded message here is to tell the audience that the products are easily accessible and do not cost a hefty amount either.

However, in some scenes the covert placement seems a bit off as well. In one scene Shefali Shah is seen giving Bhatt a ‘champi’ with luxury brand Kama Ayurveda’s oil. This clearly seems off-brand for the film and its narrative as Alia’s character is from a lower-middle class background and the product is from a premium price segmentation. Perhaps the rationale behind this could have been the assumption that Netflix’s viewers belong to a certain class, and thus it suits to market the product in the film as the target audience is right, even though it does not fit into the narrative of the film.

Since there are multiple brands involved in the film, the positioning of each brand needs to be carefully crafted because even if one brand seems to not fit into the mise-en-scene of the film, the entire suspension of disbelief that the makers have carefully constructed can be shattered in an instant. The audience can feel disengaged from the narrative of the film.

TVF Aspirants 

TVF's Aspirants | S01 E01 | UPSC - Optional Me Kya Hai?

TVF’s Aspirants is the story of three UPSC aspirants and their friendship in the Mecca of study for the UPSC exams - Old Rajinder Nagar of Delhi. TVF Aspirants was presented by Unacademy - an educational technology platform.

In the web series, we see a seamless integration of Unacademy multiple times. The character of Abhilash, who eventually becomes an IAS officer, uses Unacademy to prepare underprivileged children in his area for the UPSC exams. 

Unacademy becomes a substitute for a great teacher. While the integration was repetitive at times, it did not seem to be too disruptive as it was tied into the narrative of the series. The placement not only makes the consumer aware that Unacademy has courses available for the preparation of UPSC exams, but it also makes it abundantly clear for the consumer that it can act as a substitute for a teacher too if the student does not have enough funds to attend actual coaching classes.

TVF Kota Factory

Kota Factory - S01 E02 - Assembly Line

Much like Aspirants, Kota Factory’s story was built around the lives of students living in the city of Kota and preparing for one of the toughest exams in the country - IIT JEE. Unacademy positions itself as an alternative to the much-dreaded Kota Factory, wherein students can study and prepare for IIT from the comforts of their home. In an episode, Jeetu bhaiya who is supposed to be the best mentor in the coaching institute also says to the protagonist that he could have studied from Unacademy too, if he was feeling that he was lagging behind. 

Once again, Unacademy positions itself as both a substitute teacher and an alternative to the entire ‘factory’ of Kota. 

TVF Tripling

TVF Tripling - Season 2 | Trailer | Streaming Now On SonyLIV

TVF tripling’s first season premiered in 2016. The first season featured Tata’s brand new launch - Tiago, as the vehicle that Chintan and his siblings drive and go on a road trip in. Tiago had a young character to it and it was positioned as a product for millennials and young adults. The brand integration worked seamlessly as Tiago in a way stood as the fourth protagonist of the series. Web series at large were a new phenomenon in 2016 and attracted mostly youth audiences. The makers of the series and the brand as well got both the target audience and the integration right.

The second season however, featured Drivezy, a rental car service as its main sponsor. It was also weaved into the narrative of the series, however, much less subtly. While Tiago, didn’t need any extra branding on it as the product was the car itself; Drivezy did. Since it was a service, instead of a product it became imperative to brand the car more prominently to market the service offered. Thus, one could say that the first season’s product placement was much better than the second season as there was not any narrative constructed around the product, which here was a service.


There could be a lot of reasons for this shift in product placements from films to OTT:

1. Due to the pandemic, cinemas were closed down for a long period. The vast majority of content that we see in cinema found a new avenue - OTT. Some films that were earlier meant for theatrical release were directly released on platforms like Amazon and Netflix. Brands must have seen this shift in audience behaviour and thus found OTT as a better venue to invest.

2. OTT platforms enable targeting the right mix of viewers based on their profiles and viewing habits, helping to build strong customer-driven relationships.

3. Consumers, mostly millennials, don’t object to product placements on OTT platforms since they don’t really feel like traditional ads which are more disruptive in nature, as compared to product placements which can be seamlessly weaved into the narrative.

4. Product placements in OTT platforms. are also budget friendly as compared to mainstream cinemas where brands have to spend a lot due to the factor of a ‘bollywood star’ associated with the film.

5. When there are multiple brands involved in a single film/web-series, the messaging needs to be carefully crafted keeping each brand in mind so that the positioning does not seem to be off.  Even one bad placement can spoil the audience’s viewing experience of the story.

We have compared product placements in movies in the 2010-2013 time period and found that product placements in movies were more intrusive and ‘salesy’.  Whereas, in OTT content, film makers seem to be much more careful to make the product placement seamless.