University of Pennsylvania, USA
Stealth marketing refers to the surreptitious promotion of consumer goods, services, and experiences to unwitting potential customers. Its antecedents date back to the 1920s, when public relations firms attempted to promote their clients through creative event planning and targeted editorial placement in the popular press. Today, stealth marketing refers to a number of clandestine promotional tactics, including product placement, viral or buzz marketing, and reality marketing.
Starting in the 1990s, firms began relying on stealth marketing in response to a number of emergent concerns about the efficacy of more traditional advertising strategies, particularly the 30-second television commercial designed for a mass audience. Toward the end of the twentieth century, audiences had grown ever more media-savvy and therefore cynical about the ubiquity and transparency of traditional mass marketing and promotional media, as well as the advertising industry more generally. At the same time, digital innovations in television viewing, including digital video recorders, on-demand and pay-per-view services, and commercial-free media subscriptions available online, had increased consumers' ability to evade the broadcasting of traditional ads. Moreover, the mass communications landscape itself was drastically changing, as younger audiences shifted their media consumption habits from television ...