Product placement reaches new lows

As the new TV season approaches, I can't help but to wonder how many products will be "integrated" into my programs this fall. It used to be that product placement was fairly subtle. A box of Cheerios in the background as a mom prepared breakfast on a sitcom. A guy sitting on the couch holding a bag of Doritos before a killer snuck in the window during a crime drama. But, last season the product placement went up about eight notches on a scale of one to ten.

Off the top of my head, I can remember a few priceless moments where products should have received "guest star" credit.

1) On Desperate Housewives, Bree leads us on a four-minute tour of her new Lexus. She gushes about the features ad nauseum, even leaning in to demonstrate them for her neighbors. The scene ends, of course, with a tight shot of the Lexus logo.

2) On 90210, Annie and Dixon go on a road trip and have to bring Dr. Pepper because it's "not a road trip" without it. Many lingering close-ups on the can, the can in the cooler, the can in their hands, the can with a shirt on that says "I went to Arizona and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" (okay, I jest about that last part).

3) On Smallville, Chloe goes out of her way to mention in a conversation. In the same episode, Jimmy utters a forced reference to Yes, they added the ".com" to their conversations. C'mon, writers don't really write like that unless, of course, they are told to do so.

4) On 30 Rock, there was an actual plot line where Jack and Elisa are obsessed with the McFlurry that's served at McDonald's. They show them smacking on their ice cream treats several times during the show, with the grand finale landing them at a McDonalds. (Tina Fey denies this was outright product placement, but NBC did manage to land a McDonald's commercial for that particular McShow. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.)

As for production placement in the new TV season, who knows what's in store for us. I can't help but to fear that The Office will have a story line where it's bought out by a major office supply retailer and renamed "The Office" Depot. Hey, it could happen.


  1. Most shows really bother me when they do this, but 30 Rock is one that doesn't bother me at all. On one hand, yes, it appears to be outright product placement. On the other hand, they handle it the same way they would handle any pop culture reference, which is in keeping with the show's character.

    Overall, my feeling is, if you have to do product placement, riff on it, make it natural, make it funny, make it organic. Make it real. And then at least you're putting it to good, entertaining use.

    The alternative is seeing characters drink from red cans marked "SODA." Which is also jarring in a different way.

  2. Chung, thanks for your comment. Yes, you're right, 30 Rock does have a "wink at the camera" kind of approach to it. A good example of having fun with it and not being too serious.

    The 555 phone numbers that they use in TV shows is what I find most distracting. However, I love how 24 uses real numbers in the show. If you call, those numbers go to an interesting message that promotes 24. A good way to increase the engagement factor with their viewers.

  3. I'd read the reasoning behind this new surge, was due, to those of us, with Tivo, fast forwarding through all ads.

    Which is true ... I do. On level 3 ... super fast :0)
    ha ha


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