Does Product Placement Change Television Viewers’ Social Behavior?
To what extent are television viewers affected by the behaviors and decisions they see modeled by characters in television soap operas? Collaborating with scriptwriters for three prime-time nationally-broadcast Spanish-language telenovelas, we embedded scenes about topics such as drunk driving or saving money at randomly assigned periods during the broadcast season. Outcomes were measured unobtrusively by aggregate city- and nation-wide time series, such as the number of Hispanic motorists arrested daily for drunk driving or the number of accounts opened in banks located in Hispanic neighborhoods. Results indicate that while two of the treatment effects are statistically significant, none are substantively large or long-lasting. Actions that could be taken during the immediate viewing session, like online searching, and those that were relatively more integrated into the telenovela storyline, specifically reducing cholesterol, were briefly affected, but not behaviors requiring sustained efforts, like opening a bank account or registering to vote.
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- PLOS ONE