The Impact of National Culture on Audience Attitudes Towards Product Placement at the Example of Germany and China

Maike Hussmann

Student thesis: Master thesis


With the growing distribution of movies and television programs to international markets all over the world, product placement becomes a global marketing tool targeted at an increasingly diverse audience. This Master’s thesis provides the first in-depth, cross-cultural analysis of attitudes towards product placement by audiences outside of the US. By investigating acceptability and perceptions of product placement by German and Chinese consumers, the research asks: How does national culture impact audience acceptability of and attitudes towards product placement in movies and television programs?
In order to gain an in-depth understanding of the attitudes towards and interpretations of product placement in Germany and China, two focus group discussions were conducted with German and Chinese graduate students. The most important findings of the study relate to the general attitudes towards product placement, as the Chinese respondents were found to hold mostly positive attitudes, while the German respondents were largely indifferent about the practice. Several factors were shown to influence the attitudes of the students. The length and obtrusiveness of product placement was most decisive in negatively influencing placement attitudes of the German respondents. However, the Chinese respondents’ attitudes were importantly shaped by the integration of product placements into the storyline of a movie or television show.
The results of the study were related to the cultural frameworks by Hofstede and Hall and differences in the attitudes towards product placements were suggested to be explained by national culture. Product placement employs the soft-sell approach of advertising, which is more successful in collectivistic cultures, such as China, and might therefore explain the high influence product placement has on Chinese buying behavior. In addition, the implicit communication style of product placement is favored by Hall’s high-context cultures. Although, the movie-watching frequency of consumers and peer communication about product placement were discussed as alternative explanations, national culture was suggested to have an important impact on attitudes towards product placement. Further research employing probability samples is suggested; nonetheless, marketers are advised to carefully adapt their international product placement strategies to cultural differences.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages116
SupervisorsSven Junghagen