I Heart Product Placement ♥

23 Jun

Apple cashes in on some prime product placement in ABC's Modern Family where the iPad is featured multiple times.

I have this weird interest with mainstream TV shows and their increased use of product placement. In many shows and movies advertising has become so seamless that most people don’t even realize they’re being fed advertisements. Some shows on the other hand are not so great at subtly working products in their script and it becomes very obvious. Thought I’d take a look at some current product placement and some ideas, facts and thoughts surrounding it.

Here is a good explaination of product placement for anyone who is unfamiliar with it, exactly what it is, and the reason for it:

Product placement is a form of advertising, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, the story line of tv shows, or news programs. The product placement is often not disclosed at the time that the good or service is featured. In April 2006, Broadcasting & Cable reported, “Two thirds of advertisers employ ‘branded entertainment’ – product placement – with the vast majority (80%) in commercial TV programing.” The story, based on a survey by the Association of National Advertisers, added, “Reasons for using in-show plugs varied from ‘stronger emotional connection’ to better dovetailing with relevant content, to targetting a specific group.”

A classic example of product placement is James Bond and his Aston Martin. Or Seinfeld and the Junior Mints, Ray Ban sunglasses from Risky Business, and Reese’s Pieces in ET (Reese’s Pieces sales went up 65% after being featured in ET). Business week says about product placement:

In the generically minded film world of a generation ago, an on-screen soda bottle was simply labeled “root beer” and a tennis shoe was — well, any old shoe. Nowadays, the movie and TV industries are molding products, logos, and slogans into the very building blocks of popular culture — often without audiences realizing it.

In a world where we are being overloaded and bombarded with ads almost every second, companies are doing everything they can to stand out amongst the rest. The invention of TiVo has not only revolutionized the way we watch TV, but also forced the advertisers to change they way they reach their audiences. If you’re fast forwarding through the commercials their message isn’t reaching you – it’s not worth it for them to invest $175,000 for a 30 second ad if you’re not going to see it (which is the average cost on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX). So instead they incorporate their product into the show it’s self.  It is estimated that the product placement industry is reaching $1 billion a year. Critics say that, “Blurring the line between art and commerce is ‘stealth advertising,” and they want is stopped.”It is inherently deceptive if people don’t realize that ads are ads,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. However, Dave Harkness, senior VP for strategy and development for the VNU Media Measurement & Information Group says, ” . . . A TV program with no branded products would be unreal.” CommonDreams.org writes:

But some viewers may not be aware that the reason lowly forensic civil servants on CBS’s “CSI: Miami” drive $55,000 Hummers is that General Motors donated the vehicles, just to keep them in the public eye. Product placement also explains those lingering camera shots of folks weeping for joy over Kenmore washing machines on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The footage is shot at the request of Sears, which reportedly paid $1 million for the first season of commercials plus verbal and visual references to its products in every episode. Volkswagen will spend $200 million over three to five years to place its cars in Universal movies and in TV shows and ads on NBC, Bravo, Sci Fi, and USA.

There are plenty of people out there who are opposed to product placement, claiming that advertisers are “tricking” viewers. But personally, I believe a good way to think about it, is by relating it to fashion. When celebrities and other public figures start to wear a certain type of clothing, it all of a sudden starts showing up in our local lifes. Remember Uggs? They were being manufactured and worn in Australia well before 1978. But it wasn’t until they got a huge boost in the US from women like Kate Moss, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston, and even Oprah who spent more than $50,000 to buy them for her staff and featured them on her show as one of her “favorite things” in 2000, that they actually started being a must-have item for us Americans. Or what about the return of headbands and their appearance on Gossip Girl. DoesThisLookStupid.com says:

With the popularity of the teen drama comes the popularity of the headband—yes, Blair Waldorf just might be the most influential trendsetter of 2008, beating out Sienna Miller and the Olsen twins for the spot.

So – just like fashion trends, our advertisements are becoming ever so seamlessly melded with our entertainment and from the looks of it – there’s no turning back. Honestly, I love it. I love when a show perfectly writes the perfect script for the perfect product that can make it an instant “have-to-have” product. Even if it just serves as product recognition, I think it’s great. Also, I’d rather get my ads along side my shows than have to watch 30-60 second spots about the product.

Basically – it’s not something we can change. Product placement is a billion dollar industry that causes a lot of money to change hands. However, we can become more aware of it. Keep your eyes open for the next time they try to slip a good product placement by you in your favorite TV show. Watching for them is something I love doing and get so excited when I spot one! Here are some new and old examples that you may or may not have noticed.

Yes, even in True Blood Hoyt's mom is seen playing Wii.

Harry Potter - Converse Shoes. Considering this story takes place in a fantasy world, it was an unlikely place for product placement. But a teen audience is a perfect place for some things and converse capitalized on that.

American Idol - Coca Cola. This one needs no explanation.

Desperate Housewives - Buick. GM supplies, at no cost, the show's set with a fleet of vehicles. Buick, which did not pay for the product placement, has some of the show's characters driving the new Buicks in the episodes.

Pretty Little Liars - Every time anyone of the girls sends a text you get an oh-so-not subtle shot or mention about The Kin.

Gossip Girl - Vitamin Water - On the premier of the second season they all attended a Vitamin Water Party and the colorful bottles made an appearance in every shot possible. Chuck Bass at the Vitamin Water White Party.

Even thought it's not a branded product we can't forget about Blair and her headbands.

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