NBC's Ingenious Solution To Ad Skipping And Low Ratings: More Embarrassingly Unfunny Product Placement

from the dead-cash-cows dept

We’ve already talked a lot about how the cable and broadcast industry’s response to a changing TV landscape (ad skipping, dropping ratings, Internet video competition) is the ingenious one-two punch of mindlessly raising rates and making the viewing experience more annoying than ever. They’ve accomplished the latter in several ways, ranging from simply pushing more ads than ever before, or by even speeding up or editing popular programming to ensure more ads will fit in each viewing hour.

With ad skipping on the rise, ratings in free fall and lawsuits to stop ad skipping going nowhere fast, the broadcast industry’s latest ingenious solution is to also start including more in-show product placement:

“Moments before climbing into bed with supermodel Christie Brinkley, Donny Deutsch turns to the camera and tells viewers that a certain brand of vodka is perfect for the occasion. The scene is from Deutsch?s new comedy series ?Donny!? debuting next month on NBCUniversal?s USA Network. It?s the latest example of how TV shows, which have long avoided acknowledging product placement to their viewers, are becoming increasingly upfront about it, even turning it into a joke.

That sounds incredibly stupid to me, but maybe you had to be there. Now that consumers have more choices and improved ad skipping technology, they’re making their preferences clear, whether that’s Netflix or Dish’s Hopper ad-skipping DVR. Adapting to competition is still a foreign concept to the cable and broadcast industry, which is why NBCUniversal execs apparently believe that including stupid references to products that erode the quality of your series is the height of “creativity,” helping them better connect with Millennials:

“We see that happening at our company more and more often,” (NBC U ad exec Linda) Yaccarino said during an Advertising Week panel in New York. “You have to acknowledge the challenges with ad-skipping and lapses in measurement and break out in a more creative way.”…”Today’s young people are hip to what we do for a living,” (Donny) Deutsch said on stage during Advertising Week, which ended Oct. 1. “You’ve got to let them in on the joke.”

Yeah, but hawking vodka just isn’t funny. The real joke is that your valued young target audience is increasingly no longer watching your show on traditional TV to begin with, and you believe having stars peddle more hummus is the answer. Shoving more ads down the throats of your viewers isn’t creative, it’s desperate. And while advertisers may be willing to pay an estimated $300,000 per each placement, it’s a band aid on a major gash in the hull of the industry’s legacy cash cow. It’s also telling that the broadcast industry’s version of “creativity” and customer adaptation is bringing television advertising back full circle to the 1950s:

Of course, the solution for traditional cable and broadcasting isn’t to find a way to shovel more ads into less space, it’s to develop a better product and offer it in more convenient packages at a better price. Whether that’s a fair position to be in is irrelevant. The cable and broadcast industry’s traditional cash cow is dead. There’s no turning back the dial. The answer now is in developing new models going forward that finally, after a generation, give consumers what they want. Sadly, that’s going to mean having to (gasp) compete on price and probably make less money for a little while. But the alternative is letting companies like Netflix run away with the holy cash cow, leaving legacy cable a relic of a bygone era that could have adapted, but instead chose to stupidly keep making the same mistakes.

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Companies: comcast, nbc universal

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Comments on “NBC's Ingenious Solution To Ad Skipping And Low Ratings: More Embarrassingly Unfunny Product Placement”

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53 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

"You know what I love?

When a character in a fantasy or sci-fi book breaks the forth wall to address me as a reader, completely shattering the suspension of disbelief that allowed me to accept the impossible stuff that was going on before.

Or how about when a movie makes sure to pause the action to remind you that you’re not watching an amazing space battle, or a tension-filled chase or shootout, or an epic battle between two armies, but a handful of people pretending in front of a green-screen?

Yes indeed, nothing makes me enjoy my entertainment more than the characters within it shattering the temporary illusion cast by the action and story, slapping me in the face with the fact that what I’m reading or watching isn’t real, and is nothing more than words on a page or actors on a set.”

Said no one ever

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: "You know what I love?

Deadpool’s main ‘quirk’ though is that he knows he’s a character in a comic/movie, and has no problem addressing the audience, who expect as much from him. It works for a character like him, but for anyone else, it’s just yanking the reader/watcher out of their suspension of disbelief and reminding them that what they’re seeing isn’t real.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why that’s genius, NBC!
I’m sure the people using ad-skippers to skip ads won’t just start skipping the television shows which are big ads, too!

What’s the turnaround rate on your pilot shows, NBC? I think it’s like 5-10%, the lowest of any network. Just keep flinging crap at that wall, I’m sure some of it still stick with a cool refreshing smoke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

But I don’t see Netflix — or any other direct paying — working, either, when piracy isn’t suppressed. Already, anyone can rip Netflix content and pass it on to unlimited others.

You’re still looking at the whole problem in the prior moral milieu not in the new condition of unlimited piracy. If that’s let become the norm, then it can’t possibly work.

You can’t compete with free — meaning against your own product that costs you money but can be enjoyed for free.

Therefore, one must conclude that copyright is the practical system for ensuring supply of content, and is more important now that gadgets make copying easier than ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

Like the prior “Copia” article, you’re taking credit for the success of copyright industries in defending their content to mean that piracy can be unlimited yet production of content will go on. Actually, piracy has been limited — higher than wanted, sure, but limited.

With this piece, you rule out another source of income for producers, while jeering “Whether that’s a fair position to be in is irrelevant.” — Actually, it’s totally relevant, makes content possible in first place. Copyright IS the FAIR compromise that’s been worked out.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

Like the prior “Copia” article, you’re taking credit for the success of copyright industries in defending their content to mean that piracy can be unlimited yet production of content will go on.

You lack fundamental reading comprehension. Severely. It shows with supporting data and evidence that anti-piracy efforts had very limited reach. The availability of legal, affordable and easy-to-use services did tackle piracy by a large margin.

Actually, piracy has been limited — higher than wanted, sure, but limited.

Actually no. You only see the tip of the iceberg in the data. Taking me as an example, I often download tons of stuff my friends, relatives ask me. The offline trade is much bigger than your petty industry can even imagine. And you can do absolutely nothing about it. Which is why said legal, affordable and easy to use services are so important, they tacke even that offline piracy.

Actually, it’s totally relevant, makes content possible in first place.

No. It’s been proven that content does not need copyright to be created and, in fact, copyright may be actually a burden that prevents creation. The internet enabled creation of awesome content. Youtube, Kickstarter, online distribution systems along with more affordable technology is what enables more output, not copyright. The great majority of new stuff I see nowadays is there DESPITE copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

But copyright doesn’t prevent piracy, so your conclusion doesn’t fit your premise. More copyright restrictions seem to drive more piracy. Ergo, copyright is a contributing factor to some piracy.

Not to mention that the existence of copyright makes piracy possible. If copyright didn’t exist, then piracy wouldn’t be piracy.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

But I don’t see Netflix — or any other direct paying — working, either, when piracy isn’t suppressed. Already, anyone can rip Netflix content and pass it on to unlimited others.

Go see a doctor then. Content was always easily available and Netflix slashed piracy. And they recognize their competition in that front. But there is another competitor that will cause much more damage than piracy ever will: the MAFIAA itself with its greed charging unreasonable rates for their content. Which is why Netflix decided to start producing their own stuff. The only err Netflix is making here is that they are not making said content available for other platforms as well.

If that’s let become the norm, then it can’t possibly work.

It is the norm for years now. And it’s still working. Because piracy also act as an enabler and free advertising.

Therefore, one must conclude that copyright is the practical system for ensuring supply of content, and is more important now that gadgets make copying easier than ever.

Water extinguished the fire. Therefore one must conclude that throwing gasoline in the fire is the best way to extinguish it. (At least this conclusion seems more reasonable than yours)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

The only err Netflix is making here is that they are not making said content available for other platforms as well.

The flipside is that Netflix also operates in a way that is closest to if we had ala carte pricing for TV. Sub when your new shows are on, unsub when there’s nothing you want to watch. Meanwhile if you have tradition TV, you always have to pay for the garbage the folks at NBC and the like put out.

JMT says:

Re: Advertising supported radio and television has always been on verge of collapse.

“But I don’t see Netflix — or any other direct paying — working, either, when piracy isn’t suppressed.”

You mean you can’t see the thing that’s actually happening right in front of you?

From anyone else such a stupid assertion would surprise me. You, not so much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is the one argument I have against product placement.

Think about it: anyone remember a futuristic movie that featured Taco Bell? That reference has become part of western culture now.

The trick is to place products without advertising the product — show the space aliens having a good time drinking Absolut while scarfing packets of M&Ms. Let the branding show, just like it does in real life. Do like Demolition Man and have some fun with brands in the future. Throw in a few product placements that you don’t get paid for if none of the competition for that market is willing to pay, but keep the rest limited to paid placement.

In short, make TV a bit more like real life in those ways.

And to solve the region issues:
green-screen all the products, CGI in the branding after the fact. If you aren’t allowed to show alcohol in some region, just slap a rootbeer label on the beer, slap Evian on the vodka, etc. These days, this should be really easy to do. As an added bonus for the video syndicates, they’ve just achieved legally enforced regional lock-in.

Just don’t devolve into 1950’s style endorsements like podcasts are starting to do these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Going “back full circle to the 1950s” might be a huge improvement. 1950s television started out with very few commercial breaks. With only 40 minutes of actual show left per hour, modern day cable TV has just about reached the upper limits of commercial breaks. There was simply no where left to go other than immersive advertising, which have anyway been a mainstay of many cable tv shows for years.

Or how about a return to 1950s style tobacco sponshorships? Tobacco companies were the best-paying advertisers ever; too bad their product was lethal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEx44ETP8Ac

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’d just prefer realism. I wouldn’t mind products being visible in shows, but presented realistically. On the first season of Elementary when Sherlock makes a show of magnetically snapping together his new Microsoft tablet and keyboard, it was obnoxious rather than natural.

If characters talk about advertised products, they’ll never do so in an honest way that normal people would. They will never admit that a competing product is better in some aspect like someone in real life would.

“Yeah, I prefer the taste of Coke to Pepsi, but Pepsi has zero calories and uses natural sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and I got the case on sale at Albertsons this week.”

I just can’t see a shows writers inserting that kind of real world dialogue.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t see any harm in NBC pushing this to see how far they can get. There’s a glut of great television being made right now and if NBC is having a hard time competing, they need to find something that generates enough income or start slashing their spending.

Since NBC is an OTA broadcaster, I wonder what the limits are as far as FCC regulation goes. If they push it too far, they should eventually risk losing their spectrum. Some channels have been pretty obnoxious with animated advertising overlays on the bottom third.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a little off-topic, but is an interesting bit of trivia I just picked up. One thing Seinfeld was noteworthy for was the use of real world products on the show. Candy alone makes for a long list: Twix, Chunky, Junior Mints, Chuckles, PEZ, Jujyfruits, Oh Henry, Twinkies, Drake’s. Then you’ve got Snapple, Entenmann’s, Oreos, Today Sponge, Chrysler, the various cereals you can see in Jerry’s cabinet, etc., etc.

Most of the time these brands were integral to some pretty big plot points. I had always assumed it was product placement, but according to the writers that wasn’t the case. They either used a real product because they thought it sounded funnier, or it was a bid to get those companies to send them free stuff. Apparently, the companies rarely did so.

If TV shows could work in the products as effortlessly as Seinfeld did, I think it could work. It’s hard to imagine that happening, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: (AC @0955)

A similar statement could be made about the movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. One scene had a semi truck whose trailer was emblazoned with “Piggly Wiggly”. I thought that funny at the time. Years later I found out there was actually a grocery store chain called Piggly Wiggly. Since they were not in my area I had no idea such a chain existed!

Nick (profile) says:

As long as the product placement is subtle (no, having a future Will Smith have an odd desire to wear “vintage” Nike shoes isn’t subtle) and not blatant, I don’t care if that is the funding model. Have the characters drink a coke (you don’t need the label perfectly 100% turned to the camera, guys, nobody drinks like THAT) if you want. During the conversation in the store, have them throw a Doritoes bag in the cart, ok.

Dont do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE2iqbWp-ag

Anonymous Coward says:

Pulling a Mencia right away eh?

And this joke is old. Off the top of my head I know one of the first few 30 Rock episodes did this with Snapple as a running joke in the episode. At least when they do it on Archer with Glenngoolie Scotch, the joke isn’t covering up the actual product placement so it’s actually humorous and not groan inducing making me dislike a product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Popchips

If you want to see product-placement done right, keep an eye out for PopChips. Their PR agency gets them placed in tons of sitcoms – but they are rarely overt about it. Usually it is in the background, often the bag is half-obscured. You might not even know it is popchips unless are familiar with the bags. They have done a ton of placement on The Big Bang Theory where the bag is just unobtrusively laying on the table in a lunch scene and nobody even touches it.

The guy running their PR agency is a giant in the field, but he’s low key too. If you aren’t in the business you’ve probably never heard of this company much less his name.

Rekrul says:

People ad-skip in TV shows for many of the same reasons they use ad-blockers on the net. There are too many damn ads and too many annoying ones. Back in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t mind commercial breaks because they were short. I have a copy of a TV show that was recorded back in 1978 and it probably has a grand total of 10 minutes of commercials. Today, the average “hour” show has 17-18 minutes of commercials. Maybe someone should file a false advertising complaint with the FTC.

As for product placement; I don’t mind if they show real products in shows or movies. What I don’t like is when they compose the scene specifically to draw attention to the product. If one character offers a friend a soda and then tosses them a can of Pepsi, that’s fine, but don’t stop the scene so that the characters can gush about how good Pepsi is.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” What I don’t like is when they compose the scene specifically to draw attention to the product.”

A million times this. I’ve seen product placement that isn’t product placement as much as “bring the momentum of the show to a screeching halt and have the actors perform a little minicommercial in the middle of it”.

There is literally no faster way to get me to just stop watching the show altogether.

John85851 (profile) says:

What's the ROI?

I’d like to know what the return on investment is for these kinds of ads?
If a vodka company spends $300,000 to get the lead actor to mention their product, how many sales does this create? Are there viewers who think “If that guy drinks the vodka, I should also?” Does that really happen in 2015?

On the other hand, how much ill-will does it create when so many people say a product placement like this will take them out of the story? How long will it be until people are talking about show for its product placement instead of the characters and plot?

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