Saturday, November 11, 2006

Product Placement - Nov. 11, 2006




Marketing madness

Product placement is bad enough. Now, TV shows are dancing around with product removal, too. How much more are viewers willing to swallow?

By Eric Kohanik

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more and more weary of TV being nothing but one big commercial.

Product placement is a big culprit behind this feeling. Any time a brand nameor company logo pops up in a show, you can bet your grandmother’s pension some company has paid to have it there.

It might be the bottle of beer a character asks for. Or it might be a car that shows up just a little too prominently in a scene.

The sports world has long been a den of such prostitution, of course. Just look at the boards at any National Hockey League game, or the playing surface – and even the players’ jerseys – in a Canadian Football League telecast. The world of auto racing? Don’t get me started on that.

TV dramas and sitcoms used to be above such whoring. But not anymore. The increasing use of PVRs/DVRs that allow viewers to skip through commercials has prompted marketers and advertisers to find “new” and “innovative” ways to rub our noses in their logos during the actual shows.

Product placement isn’t “new” or “innovative,” of course. In the early 1980s, when Steven Spielberg was making ET: The Extra-terrestrial, the script called for the cuddly alien to develop a sweet tooth for a certain candy. Spielberg wanted to be realistic and use M&Ms, but the company that makes them wouldn’t give its permission.

So, Spielberg’s crew went to the folks who made Reese’s Pieces. When the movie came out, sales of that candy skyrocketed.

Now, companies actually PAY to have theirproducts show up in movies and TV shows. Even TV commercials are starting to do some weird double-dipping, placing one company’s product within another company’s ad.

It’s not only the product placements that bug me more and more these days. There’s a product REMOVAL that is also starting to stick out like a sore thumb.

It happens when a producer hasn’t been able to get a company to pay to have its product on a show. And so, familiar-looking beer cans are suddenly altered to just say “Beer” on them; pop cans just say “Cola.”

What’s really bad, though, is how shows are now starting to pixellize logos to make them fuzzy and unidentifiable, just because nobody paid to get that logo into a shot.

This poked me in the eye during an episode of Dancing With the Stars a couple of weeks ago. In a pre-recorded segment, contestant Monique Coleman and a gal pal wereout shopping and cruising around in a convertible Volkswagen New Beetle. But the VW logo on the hood had been electronically smudged to make it look like a no-name car.

Now, this may work on any nondescript car,but a VW Bug? That’s a pretty distinctive set of wheels. Who are they kidding?

I suppose the moral of the story is you just can’t trust ANYTHING you see or hear on TV anymore. But how much more of this marketing madness can viewers really stomach?

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