Products galore...and you can't avoid them
Gallery: Ad Placement Links
What are these experts going to do to combat the downturn in the advertising biz? They're going to increase ads in online TV shows, embed more ads in video on demand, and especially, explore new ad formats -- which they're already doing big-time. Product placement is rampant on TV these days, from the Tresemme hair salon on Project Runway to the use of Cisco Systems teleconferencing technology on 24. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I won't even mention the myriad of products strewn about the American Idol stage.
Then there's the technique called product integration. You may recall an episode of Friday Night Lights where Eric and Tami went out to dinner at Applebee's – yeah, the real chain restaurant like you have in your town. On The New Adventures of Old Christine, characters went shopping at Home Depot. And then there was the Christmas party episode on The Office, where Michael put an Apple iPod in the Secret Santa gift pool? Those placements were all commercials, my friends.
Here are a few more examples, and most are done in ways that are smarter than most commercials. On How I Met Your Mother, there was the show where Ted met a girl while he was playing the video game The World of Warcraft. The entire ABC soap opera line up -- All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital -- promoted American Heart Month thanks to a major in-show promotion by Campbell Soups. CSI gave Planet Hollywood's new casino in Las Vegas mucho plugola last November.
One of the oldest ways to make commercials palatable to the consumer is by having a single sponsor for an entire episode. Phillip Morris cigarettes were I Love Lucy's main sponsor, for instance. Kellogg's breakfast cereal used to bring us The Beverly Hillbillies. Recently, Cadillac sponsored the premiere of Damages on FX. When the hour presented the show's star Glenn Close standing beside the new Caddy, having her explain that Damages was presented without commercials thanks to Cadillac, that product plug was off the charts in terms of audience engagement according to IAG Research.
Advertisers are desperate to find ways to get us to recognize products to the extent that they're getting very creative. They have to because according to this study, more than half of respondents said that when DVR devices have saturated at least 50% of the U.S. consumer market -- it's currently only about 25% -- they will cut TV ad spending by 12%. And that is what has producers and networks shaking in their loafers.
Perhaps one of the most creative ways to get us to stay tuned during the commercials is by using what's called the commercial pod. That's when they put the characters we've been watching during the show right into the commercial, or extend the concept of the show into the commercial. Mad Men, for instance, created trivia slugs and questions in between segments of the AMC drama, then tied them in to commercials. On Psych, the animated Big Adventures of Little Shawn and Gus, were a way to sell AllTel cell phones. NBC's Lipstick Jungle offers makeup tips based on the characters in the show, you know, "You can have Nico's look by using..."
Of course, not all the TV shows are playing along. Some are fighting the invasive ads. 30 Rock had an episode where Liz Lemon and her writers protested the very idea of product placement, even while they were extolling the wonders of Snapple, which they were all drinking! That's biting the hand that feeds you, and creator/star Tina Fey's obviously not above taking a few more shots. In a recent episode, when her character's family comes to visit in New York, they all went out to eat at a restaurant called Saturdaze, a broadside slam at TGIFriday's.
Overall, we have no choice but to accept that advertising will find a way to seep into our programming. I don't mind too much, especially if the advertisers at least attempt to be entertaining us while they do their sell job. That's not too much to ask in exchange for my buying their products, is it?
[via TV Barn]