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How Virtual Product Placement Is Transforming Awareness for Auto Brands

In our fast-paced digital age, conventional advertising is struggling to stay effective with new audiences. Consumers don’t want to meet brands by getting interrupted during their favorite TV show or having a billboard distract them. Data overwhelmingly shows that today’s consumers don’t simply dislike traditional ads — they will actively go out of their way to avoid them.

In a recent groundbreaking study, 75% of viewers said that they prefer in-content ads. That study also discovered a 35% increase in actual purchase of featured products when viewers were exposed to them in an existing piece of content, such as a music video or movie.

Consumers want to connect with brands. They want to experience brands inside of stories that resonate with their personal experiences. With tools like virtual product placement (VPP), brands can reach consumers authentically by integrating within emotionally powerful storylines that allow for seamless exposure that avoids feeling intrusive.

VPP is changing how brands increase awareness — particularly within automotive marketing — by offering a non-intrusive way to connect with consumers in the digital realm. Here’s how VPP is contributing to a massive shift in the advertising landscape and facilitating brand-consumer interactions in the digital age.

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Virtual product placement goes beyond simply increasing overall brand awareness. It is also crucial in helping brands access audiences they might otherwise have difficulty reaching due to different cultural contexts. 


Reaching a variety of cultures successfully can be challenging due to the level of nuance that must be exercised within each new context. Every culture has its own rich tapestry of language, stories, and traditions, making it extremely important to approach diverse audiences with care and thoughtfulness. 

Lexus iTalkBB Begin Again EP17 scene 26 side x side - Mirriad - Confidential


Lexus, a multi-million-dollar luxury automotive brand, saw major success when they deployed VPP to attract multicultural consumers. Although they had prior experience displaying their products in blockbuster movies like Black Panther, they wanted to harness technology to build on their reach to audiences from a wider variety of backgrounds.

Lexus utilized VPP in a variety of innovative formats, including sports matches and music videos, in an effort to increase awareness and develop greater rapport among younger consumers. The company displayed both virtual signage and vehicles in several music videos in various languages, resulting in millions of views. 

In the music video for “Hauli Hauli,” sung in Punjabi by Indian-Canadian singer Jonita Gandhi, the luxury automotive brand’s logo can be seen on a TV mounted above a fireplace. That video received 7.8 million views on YouTube. In “Agüita e Coco,” performed in Spanish by Puerto Rican singer Kany Garcia, viewers glimpse a virtual billboard for the brand’s compact crossover car on a building in the background. This spot ultimately garnered 10 million YouTube views. 

After using virtual product placement in their automotive marketing efforts, Lexus saw increases in overall appeal, consideration/intent, and awareness. Seventy-eight percent of consumers reported that they preferred the in-content format, while 12% preferred traditional messaging. An impressive 80% said they felt VPP was particularly innovative. 

“The fragmented media landscape makes it challenging for brands to break through the environment to seamlessly connect with audiences. In-content advertising, like Mirriad's AI technology, has provided an avenue for us to engage with consumers in an authentic and innovative way that drives optimal results,” said Mia Phillips, Senior Manager of Advertising & Media at Lexus.

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Virtual product placement is one of the most accessible ways for brands to engage their audience, develop positive perceptions, and encourage action — all without disrupting the consumer. In a recent groundbreaking study, 75% of viewers said that they prefer in-content ads. That study also discovered a 35% increase in actual purchase of featured products when viewers were exposed to them in an existing piece of content, such as a music video or movie.

Nissan is one automotive company that was able to leverage virtual product placement successfully. They combined VPP with an in-content ad format to create a brand awareness campaign that saw incredible results.

Nissan 2 AI Blue (1)


Targeting adults aged 18–49, Nissan utilized three creative formats seeking to accomplish two goals: convert new customers to the brand by establishing an emotional connection with them, and make strides in becoming a household name in the EV space. 

Nissan used virtual product placement to insert their products into two Hallmark movies and one episode of Freeform’s “Grown-ish.” Each piece of content displayed Nissan in various mediums. The first Hallmark movie shows a Nissan SUV parked in a character’s driveway. In the second movie, two characters walk past a sign displaying an ad for Nissan’s electric cars. Finally, in the episode of “Grown-ish”, a trailer for Nissan’s LEAF plays on the bar’s TV as two characters converse.


After running this campaign, Nissan saw significant gains in brand appeal and awareness. Consumers felt that Nissan’s in-content ads weren’t distracting and naturally fit into the program they were watching. They also reported stronger affinity for the brand as well as greater consideration of Nissan’s vehicles as a product they would likely purchase. These results were the strongest among those who wanted to move from a gas car to an electric one, boosting Nissan’s reputation within the EV category.


By using innovative and non-intrusive formats to create brand affinity that lasts, advertisers are leveraging emotion-driven narratives to create truly effective campaigns. 


Incorporating product placement into compelling narratives enables brands to tap into the fundamental human desire for authenticity and relatability. Provoking emotional responses from consumers not only captures their attention, but also fosters a much more memorable bond between them and the brand. This type of connection is crucial for long-term brand recall and loyalty.


In-content advertising offers a natural way to embed brands into storytelling that brings an authentic feel to the viewer. Unlike traditional advertisements, these brand integrations flow right into the narrative, allowing audiences to engage with products in a less jarring context. This subtlety only serves to enhance a campaign’s effectiveness, as consumers embrace the brand not as a disturbance but as part of an unfolding story.


Billboards, TV commercials, and movie trailers can all be easily dismissed by consumers — they’re just more white noise in an ocean of content. But VPP allows people to meet brands on their own time, creating a lasting impression on audiences. This is because of its ability to show up repeatedly throughout a storyline and because of the association consumers create between brands and what they’re feeling as they experience them in the context of an exciting narrative.

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Virtual product placement is clearly a winning tool for companies wanting to expand their visibility and establish a strong rapport with emerging demographics. In addition to bringing a massive return on investment, VPP also helps cut back significantly on expenses. By using technology to recreate products virtually, companies don’t have to pay for shipping vehicles to shoots — nor do they even have to set aside vehicles from their inventories. 

As the digital landscape continues evolving, consumers will continue to have high expectations for brands. The future lies in immersive experiences where consumers can encounter brands in authentic and relevant ways without being yanked out of their day-to-day journey. VPP will continue empowering brands to integrate their products into compelling narratives that resonate with diverse audiences, boosting favorable perceptions and increasing the likelihood of triggering action. 

If you’re ready to start amplifying your own brand’s authority with the help of Mirriad and virtual product placement, come visit our Auto Advertiser page for more details.


This article was written by Emily Oberkrieser, Mirriad's Director of Integrated Marketing. Follow her on LinkedIn here.