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.
Now made aware of this unintentional hilary, Twitter users have started finding and linking over bad examples of soap opera advertising under the tag #soapoperaproductplacement.
Few TV shows and big budget movies are completely void of product placement these days. '30 Rock' characters even make clever winks and nods toward the camera when they're forced to schlep a product.
Are Seth Green and Matthew Senreich changing the face of TV as we know it?
Fresh from scooping up a Creative Arts Emmy for 'Robot Chicken' last month, it's been reported that they're launching an online reality TV experiment in which viewers decide every major decision a person makes. And unlike the Robot Chicken, that's a real person, not a clay model.
'ControlTV' will follow the life of a twenty-something guy for six weeks, and it will enable the audience to vote, in real time, on every aspect of his life -- from what he wears and eats, to where he works, to who he dates. It's slated to debut in the fall on DBG Video Network.
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?
Now more than ever, companies are placing their products within shows to capture your attention, and it's only gonna get worse as technology advances. The shameless Dr. Pepper plugs on '90210,' Jack Bauer and his team always in touch on their Sprint phones, the repetitive sales pitch for Ziploc's Zip 'n Steam on 'The Biggest Loser,' even singing the catchy "$5 foot-long" Subway song on 'Chuck' ... but which one is the most unforgiveable?
Take our poll to help determine the guiltiest party -- and if we didn't name your least favorite offender, sound off in the comments.
Tina Fey herself released a statement explaining all of the McDonald's talk in the episode (and reveals that the Tina Fey on Twitter isn't her):
"It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the references to McDonald's in last night's episode of 30 Rock were in no way product placement. (Nor were they an attempt at product placement that fell through.) We received no money from the McDonald's Corporation. We were actually a little worried they might sue us. That's just the kind of revenue-generating masterminds we are.
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.
Heroes creator Tim Kring admits that there might be a little bit too much going on in the show's universe. At a NATPE LATV Festival panel discussion, Kring says that there might be so much content going online -- and so many employees working on the online content -- that it sort of takes away from the experience of the show and the storyline, especially if you have a creative team working online that really isn't close to the team that works on the TV show. Sounds like he's referring (strongly) to the much-maligned second season of the show.
He also thinks that all of the product placement and corporate sponsorship that the show has doesn't help either.
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 ...
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