Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


As Seen on TV: Brand Placement and Its Influence on the Identity of Emerging Adults

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Terry Rentner (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Committee Chair)

Third Advisor

Lara Martin Lengel (Committee Chair)

Fourth Advisor

Susan Schultz Kleine (Committee Chair)

Fifth Advisor

Jude Edminster (Committee Chair)


Advertisers' use of hybrid messages and branded entertainment continues to increase in response to technologies such as the digital video recorder (DVR) and the TiVo which allow audiences to zip past commercial messages. The purpose of this study is to examine how exposure to one type of hybrid message—brand placement—may impact consumers' identity formation. Three research questions and two hypotheses were proposed in order to gain a better understanding about the role that brand placement in television programming may play in identity formation among 18-25 year-olds, a population known as Emerging Adults. This particular population was selected because during these formative years, emerging adults are shedding their adolescent identities and beginning to develop new ones as they become contributing members of adult society.

The undergraduate student population at a small, Eastern college received a survey containing Russell, Norman, and Heckler's (2004) Connectedness Scale in order to find individuals who were most likely to be affected by incidents of brand placement in television programs. Those who scored highest on the Connectedness Scale and who indicated they would be willing to participate in follow-up interviews provided the majority of the data analyzed for this project. In order to obtain a contrasting view, those who were least likely to be affected by incidents of brand placement (participants who scored lowest on the Connectedness Scale) were also recruited for follow-up interviews.

The analysis of survey results and interview transcripts indicates that those who are highly connected to a particular television show can have their identity influenced by instances of brand placement. Purchasing objects associated with their favorite shows, incorporating fashion and personal style brands into their wardrobes, and using products that are placed within the shows, enable emerging adults enact and shape their emerging identities.