If Your Product Placement Is Obvious And Awkward, You're Doing It Wrong

from the million-different-flavors-in-your-mouth-at-the-same-time dept

As DVRs usage and on-demand program watching increases, commercial breaks are becoming easier to skip. Product placement has long been discussed as a way to combat this trend, with shows like SNL getting into the act. However, if more shows are going to be placing products into their shows, it’s important to remember that it’s not just a matter of shoehorning a sponsor’s product into the plotline. The soap opera, Days of Our Lives painfully illustrates this point with several embarrassingly awful product placements. Sure, the writing on soap operas might not be great to start with, but the product placement in these spots is so incredibly awkward, that it’s hard to believe that the sponsors were happy with these ads. Surely writers struggled with trying to fit the term “Wanchai Ferry Chinese Food” into normal dialogue:

But, the phrase sounds painfully out-of-place, even in soap opera land, which, ironically, was created by Procter & Gamble as a platform with which to hawk their wares. Of course, it’s not exactly clear if these are paid placements, since there’s no active indication on the screen as such. Then again, when a bag of Chex Mix gets an obvious close up:

it certainly feels like a paid placement. These placements almost feel formulaic, when you start to watch them in succession. Product shot, check. Marketing message inserted in dialogue, check. This placement for Cheerios follows this formula perfectly, and ends with a hilariously melodramatic shot of the comely protagonist, with a huge box of Cheerios included inexplicably in the shot:

These placements are so bad that I almost wonder if this is yet another case of anti-product placement designed to muster negative sentiments for a competitors’ products.

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Comments on “If Your Product Placement Is Obvious And Awkward, You're Doing It Wrong”

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62 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Bones does this often with cars and lately smartphones. Bones’ staff use Dell computers, but I only know that because the logo’s on the machine in the shot.

I’m okay with a brand being shown as used by characters with no mention made of it, like we all use things we own or buy or eat or drink or wear. But characters espousing upon a brand for no good reason (as I’ve seen on Bones regarding a car or two)…as shown in the clips above, that’s really, REALLY bad TV.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Heh.

Not terribly on topic, but I recall an episode where character Angela, the art student turned (magically) into a computer graphics wunderkind, made mention of the patents pending on her ‘breakthrough’ crime/art/3D imaging whatsit programs…which many times seem to operate on mind power alone. ;D

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Bones does this often with cars and lately smartphones. Bones’ staff use Dell computers, but I only know that because the (machines kept spontaneously exploding, showering the characters in a myriad of cheap parts that tech support would eventually admit to not knowing were in the machine) in the shot.”

FTFY….

out_of_the_blue says:

Advertising works only when noticed.

So doesn’t matter if clumsy. Most TV-watchers will just shrug (mentally, too much effort to do physically) and accept that advertising is *necessary*. — It ain’t, but that leads to a whole re-think of the way society *should* reward those who create, starting with setting some limits on The Rich.

fairuse (profile) says:

Re: Angry Birds Ad FUBAR

I Could not believe the banner ad was placed where it was and the duration was doubled. I knew the update was trouble when saw the size if the app – 14MB!

I took the complain often and politely on Twitter stance. They heard. Will the next update have changes? I really have no idea but, I got their attention and they will do whatever they think is going to work best. They need to experiment some; others need to turn down the in your face placement message. Like the clips above.

Miles (profile) says:

I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

…it’s also going to get much, much worse.

So much for the fine line between content and advertising. A shame Mike didn’t write this, as I’d love to hear his excuse with this one.

The second people view something as an ad, they’ll view the entire thing as an ad and will find alternative entertainment.

There is no balance between the two. When Transformers came out, I still remember people calling it a 2 hour commercial for GM (that turned out well, btw).

If there’s any business model to be made, perhaps it’s time to remove advertising revenues from business models so they’re not calling the shots to ruin a perfectly good show.

In those video examples above, the reason the placement is bad is because the money directed, not a person.

@Hephaestus:
This station is the perfect example of where television is headed, and it’s worse when one realizes: customers pay to carry this station.

I can’t wait to see the ultimate TV show where not only is the product placement 40% of the “content”, but it’s about a law firm who sued Google for copyright infringement (and won), letting people know a third revenue stream for the same content is available to rights owners.

Ah, Amer – Eat at Joes! – ica, where the dream is now covered by copyright, trademark, and patent (pending)!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

The second people view something as an ad, they’ll view the entire thing as an ad and will find alternative entertainment.

That explains why millions sought out the Old Spice Guy ads…. Oh wait…

That’s the point. If you make it *good content* people even seek it out, and don’t go search for alternatives.

The point here is that they did NOT make it good content.

Miles (profile) says:

Re: Re: I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

“That explains why millions sought out the Old Spice Guy ads…. Oh wait…”
Tell me, when does “Old Spice Guy” premiere on ABC?

That’s my point. There’s no dispute there are good ads and bad shows, but there is a line which separates them. Here, I’ll show you:
“…Old Spice Guy ads….”

Even you did it. Why didn’t you call it a show, segment, or other word other than ad?

I actually agree with the article, just to note, and was merely using my ego to predict future articles about television stations whining about the loss of viewers because rather than watching “As the world turns”, they’re watching “Product Placement Theater”.

The two can co-exist but it’s extraordinarily difficult to balance and please the consumer.

This article just highlighted another bad example. I’m sure there will be more arriving soon.
šŸ™‚

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

You rely on rare flukes and masses of dolts, then.

Flukes such as one ad — for an already popular product with a favorable view. If it’s an entertaining waste of time, fine. But it’s not the trend, or normal, or predictable. It was a *fluke*.

Masses of dolts to watch ads without it occurring to them to hit a button and avoid it. A certain number (and it really *is* quite predictable, sadly) will buy products based sheerly on exposure to the name.

So your “proof” is an unrepeatable fluke (if such were subject to analysis, they’d be *frequent*; you should go and advise on what “good content” is, then), and you ignore the everyday bludgeoning of intellect that nearly all other commercials are.

Doesn’t strike me as a sustainable model, and isn’t it that advertising is losing effectiveness really what’s in play here? It’s a common joke that ads are often the best part of TV, but I doubt that pouring creativity (if any were to be had) only into commercials will substitute for other stories (though, presumably someone watches those hour-long “info-mercials”, the moronic quality of which undermines your notion of “good content”). Advertising is now eroding the myth of “free” television by getting so blatant that even dolts notice; I see the whole system spiraling down.

Esahc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

What a lot of people forget is, the concept of good content in advertising is really old. Most old shows and old time radio programs were payed for by a single advertiser, who often required product placement along with an opening and closing “brought to you by” statement.

Example:
Dragnet was brought to you by chesterfield cigarettes
X-One by Galaxy Magazine
Suspense (The longest running radio show) brought to you by Auto-light Batteries.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I hate to say "I told you so!" but...

“Flukes such as one ad — for an already popular product with a favorable view.”

Are you trying to claim that Old Spice was a popular product with a favorable view? Because as far as I’m aware, before the ads in question, Old Spice was “grandpa’s deoderant” and was quickly losing out to “fresher” competition, like Axe.

Ragaboo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Heroes came to mind for me with this post, as well. I personally thought that was an effective use of product placement. It wasn’t until the second season when the cheerleader got all excited about the Nissan Rogue that I connected the dots that the Versa was an obvious product placement. It fit the story in an unobtrusive way why he kept saying the car’s name, and I actually found myself imitating the line as a joke with friends here and there, proving that it was an effective marketing tool that didn’t take away from the story.

FormerAC (profile) says:

Product placement ...

Product placement is not a bad thing. Horribly done product placements are. I would change the channel in a heartbeat the moment any of those product placements hit. They were so Truman show.

They are trying to write the commercial into the show and it didn’t work. Instead they should try to be more natural about it. I know it’s a soap opera, but you have to do better.

Jim: “Hey Bob, can you grab me a Pepsi out of the fridge?”

Bob: “Pepsi, huh?”

Jim: “Ah, now thats good.”

Not too difficult there is it?

Head and Shoulders recently had a campaign that I heard on Mike & Mike (ESPN Radio) every morning. They were having a best hair contest featuring their spokesperson Troy Palamalo (sp?) of the Steelers. It was a cheesy 8 person contest where fans voted on the best hair, and the winner was pitted against Troy in the finals. It wasn’t a commercial, it was the hosts discussing the contest and informing listeners where to go to vote. It was advertising, but it was interesting. If you want me to pay attention to your ad, you have to make it interesting. The examples above were anything but interesting.

FormerAC (profile) says:

Product placement ...

(Sorry for the double post, some of it got eaten as tags)
Product placement is not a bad thing. Horribly done product placements are. I would change the channel in a heartbeat the moment any of those product placements hit. They were so Truman show.

They are trying to write the commercial into the show and it didn’t work. Instead they should try to be more natural about it. I know it’s a soap opera, but you have to do better.

Jim: “Hey Bob, can you grab me a Pepsi out of the fridge?”
[show Bob getting a Pepsi out of the 12 pack]
[Bob looks at can as he hands it to Jim]
Bob: “Pepsi, huh?”
[Jim opens Pepsi and takes a sip]
Jim: “Ah, now thats good.”

Not too difficult there is it?

Head and Shoulders recently had a campaign that I heard on Mike & Mike (ESPN Radio) every morning. They were having a best hair contest featuring their spokesperson Troy Palamalo (sp?) of the Steelers. It was a cheesy 8 person contest where fans voted on the best hair, and the winner was pitted against Troy in the finals. It wasn’t a commercial, it was the hosts discussing the contest and informing listeners where to go to vote. It was advertising, but it was interesting. If you want me to pay attention to your ad, you have to make it interesting. The examples above were anything but interesting.

Jason (profile) says:

I don't mind product placement

I really don’t think product placement is _that_ bad. I like the snarky way that Eureka and Chuck do product placement. The subway placements on Chuck always make me smile because of subway’s involvement in the movement to save the show from a few years ago.

And while the Ford Sync placement on White Collar earlier this year made me cringe, in real life I’ve had more than a few friends just openly bring up how cool they think sync is in regular conversation. But then I guess what we want to see on shows isn’t always deemed regular conversation.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

A good one

I remember a CSI:NY where one CSI guy was listening to a song on his earphones and when the other guy came up asked what he was listening to. Then there was a description that it was so and so’s new album and that the music pumps him up. Clearly an ad but then I thought about it and I have probably had that conversation with my friends hundreds of times. So is the show becoming more realistic? /=}

Danny says:

How things change

I remember back when tv shows had to actively avoid mentioning product brands for fear of lawsuits. One that I specifically recall was back when I was a kid watching Power Rangers and there was this vending machine where you could very easily tell that the Pepsi logo had been covered and a generic “SODA” label was placed over it.

darryl says:

Its a Soap opera, sponsored by soap companies, for advertising

Sure, not a sustainable model !!! LOL..

Do any of you know why they are called ‘SOAP OPERA’S’ ??

From the very minute soap opera’s were created, started, or whatever, is to sell products to people at home during the day.

they were called ‘soap’ opera’a because they were sponsored by soap companies, for their advertising..

They have only been around for well over 40 years, and it has taken mike this long to work out they are designed, and presented just for that purpose, BY DESIGN.

So say it is a ‘new’ model is joke, its a very old model, that has beeen successful for probably a lot longer than you have been alive, and will be successsfull a lot longer after you are dead.,

But to work it out now, after all this time that Soap opera’s are about promotion..

Then you must not have a clue about the real world,, you guy’s really need to read a bit further than techdirt..

Rekrul says:

I hate blatant product placement like this. However, I’ve seen something even more blatant. On some show I watched a few days ago, after a commercial, a big Chevrolet box appeared over the channel logo for about half a minute.

I predict that eventually the actual image of the show will only take up 3/4 of the screen. They’ll use a border down the side of the screen to run banner ads for sponsors and a bar across the bottom to advertise other shows on the same network.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Three quarters…I’ve seen promo banners take up a damn third of the SHOW I’M TRYING TO WATCH!

Yes, but those are temporary, in that they disappear eventually. I’m talking about having the image permanently shrunk and permanent borders on the side and bottom.

It sounds crazy now, but it’ll happen eventually.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And cable co.s wonder why people pirate or go Netflix – they make you pay twice with a bill and then gobs of ads.

I’m a hockey fan in Philly, where Comcast carries the games. I noticed that there were ads across the glass barriers at each end of the hockey rink (for home games only, I think). At first I was livid – how can the people in seats behind the ads see the game?! Are they invisible from the seats? What the heck?!

Then I realized they were placed there by some TV trickery, since they aren’t visible in camera views from ice level (and they move weirdly if you watch closely).

Comcast owns the Flyers. Comcast advertising is all over the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. The games are carried on Comcast or Versus, which Comcast owns. What’s a recurring ad on those rink ends? Comcast, of course! It’s ridiculous.

Dave says:

Not in the UK

Good grief, I damn well hope this doesn’t start happening here in the UK! Mind you, I don’t watch soaps anyway, but it had better not creep in to other programmes. There was talk of it, discussed vaguely by OFCOM, the British regulatory “authority” (I use the word loosely, from my personal experience) I think, some time ago. Awful (or offal?). The vids look absolutely terrible – just blatant commercials by another name.

WillSee (profile) says:

Coyright maximiality shoots product placement

Tried he link in the story, resulting in a 404 error. A search for “days of our lives product placement” got a list of 273,000 hits.

The first two (I didn’t look at any others) have at least half of the hits blocked because of a copyright claim.

So now, even though they paid to place the ad, they don’t want you to watch it.

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