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Music Video Product Placement Lessons from the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards

The 2023 VMAs were exciting, flashy, and, unlike many other award shows, without a major controversy. Viewers were provided a look into various music genres from around the world spanning from Pop, Rock, and Hip-Hop/Rap to K-Pop, Latin, and Afrobeats. 

Nicki Minaj hosted the ceremony, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, and performed on stage in addition to other Hip-Hop superstars and legends Diddy (Icon Award winner), Doja Cat, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Wayne, Metro Boomin, Future, Swae Lee, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, NAV, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, and Run DMC. 

NSYNC reunited on stage 20 years after their first VMA appearance, announcing plans for new music. Taylor Swift won four awards including Video of the Year, setting the record as her fourth time winning.

World Music On Stage

Shakira took the stage for the first time since 2006, becoming the first South American artist to take home the Video Vanguard Award. K-Pop boy band Tomorrow x Together debuted their collaboration with Brazilian superstar Anitta (who won Best Latin), and Ice Spice took home the award for Best New Artist.

Similar to the 2022 VMAs where BLACKPINK became the first female K-pop act to win the prize for Group Of The Year and Bad Bunny became the first non-English-language performer to win the Artist Of The Year Award, a common theme this year was the takeover of the awards by global superstars from around the world. Karol G made her VMA debut, Peso Pluma brought regional Mexican music to the stage for the first time, and Nigeria’s very own Rema won the inaugural Best Afrobeats Award.

While many of these Artists are now household names, most were not well known in the US until recently. For brands looking to build on the cultural connection that music unlocks, building relationships with non-US based artists provides an entry point that can pay dividends as artists break out.

Product Placement that Stands Out without Sticking Out

A brand placement in a music video can either leave viewers feeling like they just watched a bad ad or lead them to look up the brand they just saw associated with their favorite Artist (after hitting replay on the video, of course). The outcome depends entirely on how the brand is integrated and authenticity is everything. Thoughtful integrations that complement the storyline naturally elevate both the music video and the brand, driving brand sales, and even award nominations. 

Music videos with brand placements facilitated by BENlabs were nominated for 14 MTV VMA Awards with two taking home the prize in 2022. In 2023, videos with a BENlabs placement were nominated for five VMAs, including video of the year for “Unholy” by Sam Smith feat. Kim Petras. 

The main location shown in the music video, The Body Shop, was the first all-nude strip club on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, opening in the 1960s and still in operation today. BENlabs realized the opportunity to create custom Durex “Body Shop” condoms that could be authentically integrated into the video and organically added value to the video’s narrative, while also being mentioned in the song’s lyrics.

Looking at views, comments, and Durex condom sales figures, it’s clear that fans loved the song and integration, and the video currently has over 206M views on YouTube since its release less than a year ago. 34 million of those views happened in the first 30 days, but as views continue to rack up, the longtail benefits of authentic music video product placement for brands is clear.  In addition to the VMA nod, Sam Smith and Kim Petras were also the first nonbinary and transgender artists to win the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for this song, further strengthening the clear values and audience alignment between Durex the artists.

Brand Collaboration with Emerging and World Artists

An authentic, storyline-driven brand placement in a top-tier artist’s music videos is a slam dunk for brands, but these placements can be costly. Working with global artists is one way to make an impact without stretching the budget. 

Brands consistently see placements in many of these Artist’s videos come at a major discount while offering consistent, predictable performance. As a brand, aligning with non-US artists presents the opportunity to expand their global outreach while still reaching their targeted US audiences. 

As mentioned during the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, Latin music has made over a billion dollars in streaming for the first time in history, and many of those streams are coming from fans in the US. 

Another alternative is working with emerging US Artists on the rise, which presents a risk but a big potential reward. 

Whatever the case, spotting and getting in early on trends is key to successful music artist integrations that won’t break the bank. 

Finding the next breakout artist and/or perfect Artist alignment for a brand takes a mix of art and science, along with a tolerance for risk. BENlabs’ expertise and access to inside information provided by the relationships with our existing contacts provide brands with the confidence to execute successful music campaigns, whether with big US names, global, and emerging artists.

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