There are Tons of Ads on Netflix, You Might Just Not be Noticing Them

netflix ads product placement
Adam Sandler in Netflix Original ‘The Do-Over’ Marketing Bud Light

Netflix prides itself on being recognized as an advertisement-free television and movie experience. And Netflix knows its customers will go ballistic if the streaming service introduced advertising in-between shows and movies. A survey we took last year determined that 79% of people would rather pay more for Netflix than deal with ads, a pretty stark majority.

But money is money, and Netflix needs more of it to continue spending 30-90 million dollars per original film and upwards of 100 million for their original TV shows. Content isn’t cheap, and Netflix knows firsthand how expensive it gets to both rent third party content as well as create their own.

While Netflix can’t, at least without losing a lot of subscribers, directly inject advertising breaks between its shows and movies, there has been an interesting trend of product placement in Netflix originals.

For those thinking back to the first season of ‘House of Cards,’ there was a pretty obvious moment where Kevin Spacey’s character notices a Sony PS Vita on a table and comments how he should get one for the car. Suspiciously, too, many of the characters in ‘House of Cards’ seem to have a very specific attachment to Anheuser-Busch InBev beers. Characters on the show apparently also enjoy using OnePlus phones, a Chinese manufacturer, which cost the phone company over $300,000.

Product placement isn’t new, nor is it unique to Netflix. In 2012, advertisers spent over $8 billion on product placement, with expectations that this number will double in the next few years. Not coincidentally, the continued increase of product placement in television and film comes at a time where television advertising has seen a decline in revenue as more brands move budget online.

Even more than online budgets though, consumers have entered a golden age of entertainment consumption, where, while the streaming industry is still quite fractured, there are almost always multiple options for consuming television. Through DVRs, streaming apps, online video services and more, many with ad-free options, television networks are searching for new ways to monetize. Clearly the most unavoidable form of advertising comes as product placement baked directly into a show’s plot. When a main character cracks open a nice refreshing can of Coca-Cola ™ and quenches their thirst after a scene’s climax, our eyeballs are already too focused to miss the not-so-subtle nature of this moment.

While most viewers are on their phones or focusing on something else during most commercial breaks, spending more on native advertising directly into the content we’re all consuming is the only space left to infiltrate.

Netflix’s only public comments on this product placement is that they, at least technically, don’t handle the selling of product placement, instead leaving that up to show producers. No show producer will openly comment about product placement in Netflix originals nor will anyone comment as to whether or not Netflix gets a cut from these deals. It does seem unlikely that Netflix would allow their original shows and movies to cash in independently on such deals, however.

But is this so bad? We all want the best content to continue getting produced. And if Netflix needs the extra budget in order to keep producing shows like ‘House of Cards,’ then perhaps so be it. But if the money gets too good, then do we end up with even less plot and instead just product placement pigeonholed into fluffy plots? Do entire shows end up existing just to clumsily shove marketing dollars into their stories?

What are your thoughts here? Are you willing to accept product placement as an alternative to commercials? Let us know in the comments below.