Sunday, June 26, 2005


A bit of dialogue among Iddiots on the Idiot's Delight Digest:

Karla: at CTU they have Macs? (BTW - did anyone else watching 24this seaon notice the Cisco product placement?)
Bobt: Yes, I did. It made me recall how Trump used all of those companies for his apprentices to do projects. I figure that every time a Marlboro pack, Coke can, or any product label appears, someone is getting rich.

Another thing that saddened me while watching the movie version of 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' was a shot of a Nokia phone floating in space and filling the screen. It was just that it was a sell-out. It dated the movie.

Look how far we've come in the twenty plus years since the TV version of 'HHG2TG' and the evolution of phone service. In another twenty years time that Nokia phone will make this movie look as up-to-date as 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'.

It's been quite a year for product placement in Toobworld and it'll only get worse. And while there has been talk of curbing it through legislation over here, product placement could be allowed on UK television after regulator Ofcom announced it was reviewing its rules. The practice - where products are included in programmes in return for money - is currently banned in the UK. Ofcom said it would consult broadcasters later this year on a possible rule change.

TV viewers better brace themselves for even greater product placement in their favorite TV shows because CBS Chairman Les Moonves is planning a big increase.

“I think you’re going to see a quantum leap in the number of products integrated into your television shows this year,” Moonves told investors at Deutsche Bank’s annual media conference in New York.

Moonves said that while NBC’s 'The Apprentice' “may have taken that model and overdid it there”, CBS will be heavily salting much of its programming with placements. “We’re making more and more of those deals: The kind of cars they drive in CSI; the kind of orange juice they drink in Two and A Half Men.”

Now that Google has become a common verb in the English lexicon, Amazon's apparently wants its place in pop-culture as well. On an episode of Fox's 'The O.C.', which has become a prime-time showcase for up-and-coming bands and current trends, A9 made its debut among teens with three words: "I'd him."

Amazon says it did not pay for the television placement, and was pleasantly surprised by the exposure. "This placement was not paid for by or We didn't even know it was going to air," CEO Udi Manber told BetaNews. "We do think it's great to see this happening though, because it shows people like the experience offers and that they are telling their friends and family about it."

Product placement has gone from a strategically placed box of Oreo cookies on an episode of "Friends" to a Mattel-themed 'The Apprentice' and a Pontiac "Oprahmercial". So what's next for product placement and the marriage of Hollywood and Madison Avenue what brung 'em together?

According to David Collins of Scout Productions, the secret to making a successful integration is to have a brand become a part of the character's lifestyle. Collins cites as a past example 'Sex And The City'. Carrie Bradshaw's Apple laptop and her Manolo Blahniks were as much a part of her as a shabby raincoat and a cigar can sum up 'Columbo'.

"Having a character in a TV show drive a specific car is integration. Having that character use the GPS system in that car is a home run."

(I'm not sure if that's a good example, personally. So far, I've only seen the GPS pop up in TV shows as a plot device in crime shows like 'CSI' and 'Monk'.)

Marketing giant Procter & Gamble offered another example of just how quickly product placement in TV shows has moved brands from appearing as mere props to becoming stars of the story lines.

Pop singer Jadyn Maria, in an Herbal Essence ad, guest-starred on 'What I Like About You' (which is popular with young women) as a competitor with the show's characters for the ad roles.

The plot of that episode had two characters competing for acting work in the ad. Holly and Tina auditioned to appear in the blipvert against the singer (who ultimately landed the role and the $1,000 grand prize).

And then, after the auditions, the actual Herbal Essences commercial then aired which featured Jadyn Maria sang "Rock You Senseless".

It was all part of the insidious campaign to make it difficult for viewers - and their recording devices - to distinguish between the commercial and the actual program.

Here are a few other examples of integration between the shows and the ads:

Ford's new Mustang was part of the plot in the new season of 'The O.C.'. (I suppose Mischa Barton's character had her feet up on the ceiling in the back seat?)

Hasbro promoted the new version of the game "Operation" during an episode of 'Scrubs'. The show's doctors called on their surgical skills to remove the newest ailment, "Brain Freeze".

I'll bet Hasbro didn't expect to see the game referenced in one of the most intense scenes during the season finale of 'Lost', though. It sure made me jump in fright!

Heiniken beer showed up on 'American Casino' which aired on the Discovery Channel.

For UPN's 'America's Next Top Model' , there was a photo shoot of the models which spotlighted Lee Jeans.

At the very end of every episode of 'The Apprentice', the bounced businessperson takes off in a cab that has a Yahoo! HotJobs ad on the rooftop kiosk.

But now advertisers are going to take the next step beyond product placement. In a way, it will be a throwback to the early days of Television, when the advertisers were involved from the inception of a show to make sure there was a way to integrate the product so that it would be a seamless fit within the program.

And on Comedy Central, a cartoon series incorporated the names and products of sponsors into the plotline.
The first episode of 'Shorties Watchin' Shorties' had tooned-up representations of Domino's Pizza, Red Bull energy drink, and Vans sneakers.

There's another advertiser, Activision, which will have the two main characters (a couple of babies watching TV themselves) introduce the commercials for their new video game which features skateboarder Tony Hawk.

This hearkens back to the old days when the Lucy and Desi stick figures would do the lead-ins for a brand of cigarettes on the old 'Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour'.

Here's why I don't like the practice. It cuts down on the creation of fictional products that might one day have a shot at appearing on some other TV show - and thus provide a link.

Here's an example - a box of "Donuts Donuts" suggested the logo of Dunkin Donuts but was completely fictional. And after that prop was seen on an episode of 'Roseanne', it got re-used in the newsroom of 'Murphy Brown'. Thus both shows got linked.

I've seen the same fictional box of cereal show up on both 'My Favorite Martian' and 'The Courtship of Eddie's Father', linking two shows with lead characters who both look like the late actor Bill Bixby.

But if you start using real world products, you lose something of the creative nature of the show.

Remember that Nokia cell phone I mentioned from the Hitch-Hiker's movie? There is a product they could have used instead that would have been a nice nod to the true fans of the original work:

A digital watch...... by a fictional company.



WordsSayNothing said...

With all due respect, as far as television goes...are you really surprised by any of this? Of course companies are going to try to sell their products inside the TV shows. We live in an age where people can use their DVRs and TiVos to skip past commercials. (I suppose VCRs could have been used to do this before, but digital technology has made it so much easier.) Suddenly, commercials outside of the Super Bowl may not be as profitable as they used to be. So of course the products will invade the shows themselves. It's an unfortunate side-effect of technology advancement. It sucks, I know, but that's the way it is.

Toby said...

Not so much surprised, as disappointed. I suppose if it's handled properly, it could work out to everyone's advantage.

That mention of "Operation" being used on 'Scrubs' is a good example. The company got exposure for the product's anniversary, the show got a sub-plot and some jokes from it, and hopefully the audience was satisfactorily entertained without being pummelled with an obvious commercial.

I grew up in the days when the commercials were shoved into the storyline with less subtlety and classic examples like the Flintstones hawking Winston cigaretts can still be found out there.

I just wish that after all this time they would at least use a little more finesse than the Nokia placement in the movie....

It's a danger with Toobworld; I get caught up in all of my uncontaminated theories and then Reality comes along and nails me head to the floor........

Oh well. Plenty of other things still out there to get upset over.