Mad props to the investigatory reporters over at Entertainment Weekly who chased down the source of some wacky ads that were popping up in reruns of 'How I Met Your Mother.' I give big-ups to them not only for breaking some fascinating news but also for admitting that, like the rest of us, they watch reruns of 'HIMYM.'
The news is this: thanks to groundbreaking technology, it is now possible to sell ads in old episodes of TV shows by digitally inserting things like TV screens in bar scenes or billboards on sidewalk scenes, and having those digital screens carry timely ads, for example, as EW noted, for the release of 'Bad Teacher' in an episode that was shot in 2009.
Truthfully, the love of gadgets fits very well into Phil Dunphy's (as played by Ty Burrell) character. He's the sort of man-child that would love such toys as the iPad. Plus given all its publicity it has gotten so far, it's not likely the iPad needs more product placement. Lloyd told James Hibberd that they wanted Phil to get excited over a gadget, and the iPad seemed to be "the perfect one to use," since it was being released the Saturday after the episode aired.
More likely examples of paid product placement would be 'Chuck's' heavy use of the Subway restaurant chain or that painful episode of 'Smallville' that revolved around the consumption of Stride Gum that was infected with Kryptonite. It's also possible to name episodes of 'The Office' and '30 Rock' with paid product placement that got to the point of parody.
On the other hand, it's unlikely that the creator of a show would ever admit to selling out. We'll have to accept that the complete truth will never be known. Enjoy the show!
Now, while Joel thought the latter was an overdone commercial that may have been penned by Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself, my reaction was completely the opposite. And some critics agreed with me, too.
The idea that Phil would be obsessing about the latest technology was in keeping with the character. Phil's been established as a techie guy, a geekster of the first order. Why wouldn't he be an early adopter of the iPad considering that it is being touted as the next big thing?
We get it. It's the way of the TV world these days, as someone's got to the pay the freight in a world where you can zap a commercial by pushing a button.
But, when entire stories on shows play out like an ad for a product, then things have gone too far. Unfortunately, my favorite new show, 'Modern Family,' took things that step too far last night with their iPad-themed plot. It felt like one long Apple commercial. Never mind that the episode aired just in time for the device's release on Saturday; the iPad drove the plot rather than the plot necessitating the use of an iPad. And that's where the producers crossed the line.
How's this for an odd occurrence of non-product placement? On Wednesday night, during the ABC sitcom block -- actually during 'Modern Family' -- there was a commercial for Stouffer's Family Size dinners. The commercial referred to 'The Middle,' making the case for how positive it is for families to sit down and share a meal together.
It was a great idea for a commercial, but did anybody at Stouffer's realize that with the exception of Thanksgiving, the Hecks don't actually cook dinner? They're usually bringing in bags of take out from a burger joint. You see hamburgers and fries and lots of paper products, but it was only for Turkey Day that anybody actually fixed dinner.
Yes, that Jeremy Piven. The three-time Emmy winner from 'Entourage randomly showed up at the 'BB' house and cracked jokes with the houseguests. Was Piven just in the neighborhood? Of course not. He delivered some, ah, interesting news: The luxury challenge reward would be a screening of his new movie, 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.'
Groan. Really, Piven, this is how low you'll go?
That said, the news today that NBC has given Knight Rider a full season order leaves me cold. That's an order for nine more episodes, and it strikes me as throwing good money after bad. Knight Rider has been struggling in the ratings and generally dissed by the critics. It hasn't earned a pick up to be perfectly frank.
So why would NBC give this remake of the 1980's action drama a vote of confidence? Well, it could be that it's considered one of NBC programming chief Ben Silverman's pet projects.
Ah, product placement. It's a subject that's come up before. We have an award for it, and even as far back as those care free days of 2005, Karina was writing about the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild Of America protesting it. The telling quote from that piece, "Our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter, but to disguise this as storytelling." And isn't that where most of us have always drawn the line in the sand? The placing of products into sets was kind of an understood cost of doing business, but having the writers change scripts to incorporate them was a whole other ball of (Turtle) wax. Unfortunately, those (Foster Farms) chickens have come home to roost.
As it turns out, there were four stand-out nominees; I will tell you who they are after the jump, and then you will have a chance to vote for the Reader's Choice winner (which, in this case, is actually an obnoxious loser). But I did want to mention two runners up: 30 Rock gets an honorable mention for its mention of Verizon, but it doesn't quite make the cut because of the humorous way it handles the mention, and the show's ability to poke fun at itself. The other honorable mention goes to Ugly Betty for its hour-long ad for Wicked, but it still didn't quite make the cut.
So, the nominees for the most obnoxious abuse of product placement within their episodes are ...
A few days ago I happened to catch an episode of the NBC soap opera Days of our Lives that my wife was watching. Hey, don't look at me that way! My wife is a fan of the show. Oh, sure, I used to watch it during the Shane/Kimberly/ Patch/Kayla/Frankie/Jennifer heydays of the late 80's, but it doesn't do anything for me now. Really, I'm serious!
Anyway, the scene I walked in on was one between Chelsea Brady and Nick Fallon (I got those names from my wife, I swear!). It seemed that Chelsea was depressed about one thing or another and Nick had the solution to cheer her up. They went to a nearby computer, where Nick began to pull up pictures, on the Wallgreens photo site, of the couple during happier times. When Chelsea asked how he did this (because she is obviously technically non-savvy) Nick responded that he just uploaded the pictures to the Walgreens.com and, I believe, he added some end tagline like 'It's just so simple.'
Holy. Freakin. Crap.
So advertisers are turning in droves to product placement. According to Nielsen, Coca-Cola paid for 3,355 occurrences of television product placements last year. And they weren't alone. Blogging Stocks has top 10 lists of advertisers and the shows they placed products on.
I probably shouldn't be too shocked that American Idol topped the second list with 4,085 placements in 2006. In fact, almost all of the shows on the list were reality TV, which I find somewhat reassuring. I'm not sure what's up with King of Queens though. The show was number 6 with 1,954 product placements.
The first one was when we saw The Office's Kevin going nuts over the Staples MailMate shredder. "This shreds eveything," he says with a sense of childlike wonder. "It shreds CDs. It shreds credit cards..." The look on his face after he realized he shredded his own credit card is priceless, as was the salad he made with the shredder right before the credits. Oh, and by the way, Staples had an ad for the MailMate during the "supersized" episode.
(S01E09) OK, now this is getting a little strange. This is the fourth episode of an NBC show (the others were two episodes of 30 Rock and an episode of The Office) where product placement was mentioned. In this, because of a blow the company is going to take on the Macau deal, Jordan says that 15 people are going to have to be let go from the show. Jokingly, Matt and Danny bring up product placement, but Jordan thinks it's something they should seriously consider.
The hell? Is NBC trying to convince us that product placement is here, it's good, and we should get used to it?
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