Blogging Out Loud

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The Commercial, 2.0.

Traditional ads have been replaced by smart product placement.

Red carpet dramatics not only fuel television, but consumerism. Product placement is an opportunity for smart brands to extend themselves.

The Emmy’s may be past us, but news and opinions about Sunday’s broadcast continue to catch my eye. I wasn’t able to watch the awards live, but thanks to my old pal DVR and The Fug Girls, I’m in the loop. I was both pleased and not surprised by this year’s winners; shows ranging from irresistibly entertaining (Glee) to funny (Modern Family) to very very serious and seriously good (The Good Wife, Mad Men) have TV buffs talking. But watching the broadcast — sans commercial — got me thinking that the night’s winners should’ve given a shout out to the Don Drapers and Phil Saifers of the world. Sure, it’s their directors, writers, agents and stylists that helped them earn those shiny prizes, but products and their occasional well-placement give the entertainment industry a lot of fuel. I know, I know, there’s the whole “art” thing (and who am I to question the motives of the Kardashian sisters), but let’s be honest: television and commercials go together like…radio and pop songs. And just like “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the invention of DVR, TiVO, live streaming, etc., made it pretty hard to be a commercial. It’s no wonder we see more and more product placement in film and television. Glee‘s Jane Lynch went so far as to plug Adidas (maker of Sue Sylvester’s trademark warm-ups) on the red carpet. While some of my friends find disruptions such as these bothersome, I can’t help but think that smart product placement is the new commercial, version 2.0.

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud here, but it seems as if successful product placement relies on the ABCs; it must be Appropriate, Believable and most importantly, an extension of an already existing solid Campaign.

In idea and execution, product placement has earned its bad wrap. From the painfully obvious examples we see on shows such as American Idol (Coke) and The Biggest Loser (Ziploc), to the less blatant and more realistic: an episode from last season’s Modern Family centered on the then-new iPad (Apple), and Brothers and Sisters has given Trader Joe’s brand cereal and pasta some camera time. Meanwhile, shows such as The Good Wife and Mad Men have done tie-ins with Buick and Honda, respectively. These last examples are the ones that hit home for me and my friends because in addition to being relevant to the shows, they’re believable: we want iPads, we shop at Trader Joe’s, and I can’t speak for all my friends, but if I was in the market for a new car, I could be swayed by a TV character I like. Consumers want to believe in the relevance of a product’s placement into the lives of characters they can (and sometimes can’t) relate to. But more than that, when a brand sends a  consistent message — across all platforms — it strengthens the ways in which consumers think about that brand. Does it work? My friends and colleagues at Vertical Marketing Network were split on this. TV viewers — like all consumers — are an educated and savvy bunch. Cynisism aside, though, it certainly can’t hurt.

The ABCs of product placement make for more than good marketing, they make for good storytelling. It’s no surprise that the most successful storytellers won big on Sunday night. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the brands placed within those stories win big, too.

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: ivanwalsh

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

3 comments on “The Commercial, 2.0.

  1. Meghann
    August 31, 2010

    I think product placement works best when it’s not forced on the viewer. Products that make sense with the story line seem to effectively stick with the consumer after the movie or show is over. American Airlines in the movie “Up in the Air” sticks in my mind as a suitable fit. Why make up a faux airline brand when you can use a real one? Also, the “Sex and the City” movie had many brands such as Louis Vuitton and Manolo Blahnik that made sense with the story but were shameless examples of successful product placement as well.


  2. Leslie
    August 31, 2010

    I fell in love with and haven’t missed an episode of Mad Men since day one, and have been equally fascinated by their product placement. Mad Men certainly is a great example of it done the right way: subtle and unobtrusive. Of course, it’s a show about a high-rolling NY ad shop so as viewers we are more accepting of placement on this type of show.

    Product placement would certainly strengthen brand loyalty with current users of said product, and perhaps the brand recall may stick even with viewers that don’t use the product. However, using Mad Men as an example:

    1) I don’t smoke, and Lucky Strikes placement won’t change that
    2) I always have, and probably always will, loved VW and would never by Honda
    3) Pond’s Cold Cream and Maidenform are for old ladies 🙂

    Of course, Mad Men is based in the 60s so they need to stick to brands that were popular, or just gaining awareness, during that era in order for the show to be believable.

    I also think Reese’s Pieces in E.T. has to be one of the most successful and memorable placements ever.


  3. Philip
    August 31, 2010

    Good product integration operates under the radar. The brand is woven into the story being told in a seamless manner yet the impression of the brand name is seeded with the consumers. Bad product integration is simply product placement and often stands out like a sore thumb. I love The Good Wife on CBS. Great acting, great story lines, and nicely shot. But even I was less than amused when the shameless Buick product placement was forced into what was a great episode.

    Bottom line is that some people in marketing still confuse product integration with product placement…and that’s the problem. Advertisers have paid for simple product placement in motion pictures for decades. But the most memorable product integration examples live on for years. Think Ray-Ban in “Risky Business” or Federal Express in “Cast Away” or even Reese’s Pieces in “E.T.” – those are the examples of the gold standard in product integration and something all marketers should strive for.

    Can anyone else cite some examples of true product integration successes? Please share.


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