Native advertising on OTT Content – Product placements get more organic

In-content advertising or product placements, while a traditional concept, have become more organic in the face of the flourishing OTT industry.

Since viewership of OTT content experienced a substantial surge during the pandemic, it has shown no signs of slowing down. The temporary lockdown restrictions caused a permanent change in consumer inclination of going to the cinema and watching a movie. This inclination also streamed in a new wave of advertising on OTT.

The availability of local, regional, national, and international content gives a gist of how the content on OTT has penetrated inward and outward. India has been one of the key markets with surged OTT viewership globally. A third of revenues generated from OTT content in APAC (ex-China) comes from India.

India’s streaming OTT video market is in its second growth phase with total revenues of USD 3 Bn in 2022, expected to more than double to almost 7 Bn USD by 2027. Five leading platforms – YouTube, Meta, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix, will account for a combined 82% of total online video revenues in 2022, according to a report by MPA.

Kartik Kalla, Chief Creative Officer, Radio City, mentioned “OTT has been able to penetrate within the dense social fabric to entertain and increase mass volume consumption across its various genres, from sports, dramas, thrillers to even films being launched on OTT”.

This breakthrough has also triggered a tangible change in pop culture observed on social media, web series’ characters have set trends, infamous dialogues have turned into memes, and various forms of content have frequently been used as references. This inclination has become such a native element of social networks, that memes being extracted out of a web series are a landmark equal to a series being declared a hit.

With elevated viewership, comes advanced advertising, promotional elements that fit in between ad breaks, as the title sponsor, or even as branded content that describes product features in between narratives and revolves a story around the product.

Native formats that promote a product without making the scene look like an ad, placing significance on the product and making it a part of the storyline, building upon the context of the content, and integrating a meaningful promotional element, have cropped up.

For instance, Chhuri…

During a usual binge session on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon LargeShortFilms, a content platform by Royal Stag Barrel Select, which presents short films by acclaimed and aspiring directors in the country. Chhuri, was the film I picked randomly (so I don’t finish my food before I find something to watch).

Also Read: How Disney+ Hotstar cleverly promoted Brahmastra’s OTT premiere without really promoting it

Spoiler Alert The film is about a woman who finds her husband cheating on her, catches both in the act, and then smartly handles the situation while on her way out, emerging as the real MVP despite being betrayed by her own husband. She sits in her Nissan Micra and drives off with a smile on her face in the climax. It wasn’t until the campaign tagline, “Nissan Micra – Smart Car For The Smart Indian Woman” showed up at the end, that I realized that I just saw an ad.

I always hate it when an ad just abruptly transitions into an information dump, integrates promotional dialogues that are irrelevant to the story, and reminds me of the Center Fresh campaign “Who talks like this?”, because, in real life, nobody does.

Doordarshan, cable TV, CTV, and online content hubs, there is not a single platform where brand integration or advertising has not been incorporated. But Chhuri was not just an engaging watch, it was also a prime example of the new wave of native advertising on OTT content.

Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place – Native

Oxford Dictionary

We have recently seen several such examples emerging with the new forms of OTT content. The most prominent one of them is Darlings, directed by Jasmeet Reen and produced by Red Chillies Entertainment and Eternal Sunshine Productions. Darlings can be easily touted as the talk of the town on LinkedIn within the Indian A&M industry. There were several discussions about the number of brand partners and product placements in the movie.

While there were varying opinions and discussions about the effectiveness of the believability of the product integrations, all of the placements were undeniably native. They did not look like a force-fit in any scene and were domesticated well enough to grab some attention but not distract the viewer from the scene.

Talking about the brand integrations in Darlings, Ashutosh Shahane, Brand Alliances & Partnerships, Red Chillies Entertainment had mentioned that the integrations were strategically placed without creating gaps that would be later filled with products. “This is an example of being able to achieve synergy when the captain of the ship, the Director, Jasmeet Reen lends in to offer the required flexibility to let us build these partnerships out of those opportunities that fit well within her creative vision”, he added.

Image Credits: Ashutosh Shahane

Well, it cannot be possible that we’re discussing advertising in the entertainment industry, and we do not mention Karan Johar and his show that has been widely popular (for all the right and several wrong reasons) and sat on top of the most-viewed list on Disney+ Hotstar week after week.

Also Read: Fabulous brands seen in the Fabulous Lives Of Bollywood Wives S2…

Along with the in-your-face “turn on the Jaquar lights” elements, several of the brand integrations are weaved into the Q&A format of the show and statements from celebrities are vouched as a natural extension of the promotional objective.

“What makes your fashion a cut above the rest?” or “What does luxury mean to you”, questions like these designed to promote a brand like Ajio Luxe come off as a native part of the show, despite a ticker flashing the brand name and logo.

Product placements in content isn’t exactly a new trend. Mainstream cinema has been harboring brands directly and indirectly, for many years now. Be it Alia Bhatt working with Sunsilk in the 2 States or Arjun Kapoor holding a Saffola Active packet in Ki & Ka. OTT, however, gives the flexibility to integrate brands in a more organic and comfortable manner.

As the wave gets stronger, we would see several such native integrations into OTT content, and when the waves settle it would be interesting to see what formats stick to the shore, and which wash away.


A wordsmith by profession who likes art, Beatles, Coffee, DiCaprio and Eminem brings a fresh perspective contrary to existing perceptions and believes in questioning everything, also has a belief that there should be a bigger place in the world for words and not war. He prefers the phenomena of the physical world of plants and animals(especially dogs) over possessions. Reckons moving to the rhythm and moving on.