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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What products would “blend seamlessly” as product placement into which TV shows?

Advertisers are desperate to try anything new in order to get ads in front of eyeballs, and TV networks will do anything in order to continue squeezing money out of those advertisers. (I think I hate most the banner ads that keep popping up along the bottom of my TV screen in the middle of programs.) But one thing they’re all trying is something old, something from the earliest days of TV: single-product sponsorship of a show, with the product integrated into the storyline.

Family Guy is about to try it, according to The Hollywood Reporter blog The Live Feed:

The half-hour “Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show” will air Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m. and star MacFarlane and co-star Alex Borstein. The special will air commercial free … sort of … instead featuring a creeping invasion of Microsoft Windows 7-branded programming that, the press release assures, will “blend seamlessly with show content.”

“We’re thrilled to be joining forces with Windows 7 on such an exciting, highly collaborative marketing campaign featuring the very unique talents of Seth MacFarlane as he overhauls the old Hollywood tradition of the sponsored variety show by marrying Windows 7 messaging with content,” said Jean Rossi, executive vp of sales for Fox.

Yeah, should be seamless, because “Family Guy” is always chock full of jokes about new Microsoft operating systems. Why, do you remember that one time Quagmire couldn’t figure out how to get his air card to work with XP? Oh, oh man, it was hilarious … ahem.

That’s James Hibberd at The Live Feed bringing the snark, and he’s not wrong. It’s easy to imagine product placement blending seamlessly into a show, but this ain’t it.

So let’s show ’em how it’s done, What products would “blend seamlessly” as product placement into which TV shows?

I’m thinking like this:

INT. STERLING COOPER OFFICES. DAY.

ROGER STERLING
Dammit, Don, after that meeting, I need a drink.

DON DRAPER
Hey, Roger, I just got this a bottle of Laphroaig from Gimbel’s — they want us for their new Christmas campaign. Try it: you’ll love it.

Have fun.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • I think that the Head and Shoulders placement in Evolution was probably the greatest product placement of all time. It even fit with the plot!

  • Jester

    I was constantly amused by Dell’s product placement in the various Stargate series. They could have amped it up a couple of notches without it breaking the series too badly.

    INT. SAM CARTER’S HOUSE. DAY.
    A DELL LAPTOP is on a table in the foreground. DELL TECHNICIAN is seated at the laptop, with SAM CARTER standing over his shoulder. DR. DANIEL JACKSON leans against a wall in the background.

    DELL TECHNICIAN
    So what exactly happened here?

    SAM CARTER
    Some sort of Go’a’uld artificial intelligence virus infiltrated the operating system, which is causing it to attempt to remotely access worldwide computer networks. It’s already turned over access to a secure FBI network to Apophis.

    DELL TECHNICIAN (blank stare)
    …uh… what?

    DR. DANIEL JACKSON
    She’s kidding. Just reinstall Solitaire.

  • I always liked the way the old X-Files episodes always seemed to advertise the same brand of car that I drove at that time. Of course, eventually, my Taurus conked out and I had to replace it with a Japanese model. But for a while, that type of product placement was cool.

  • Cyndy

    Law and Order (or any cop show) could advertise almost any quick foods. Krispy Kreme, Taco time, burgers, salads to go. Cops gotta eat.

  • Paul

    Now I know why you call yourself the Jester. lol

    Crime shows and cigarettes.

    “Frasier” and wine or any other high art. Wait, maybe they were doing that.

    “Monk” and cleaning products.

    “The Daily Show” and news magazines. “In today’s Newsweek blah blah”

    “2 and 1/2 Men” and condoms. Maybe all of the Monday night comedy line up.

  • Jurgan

    “The Daily Show” and news magazines. “In today’s Newsweek blah blah”

    That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. They can’t criticize the media while cashing their checks.

    I’m trying to think if I still watch any TV shows. I can imagine if Buffy had used Garlique brand garlic tablets, but then I’m not sure if they were ever consistent on whether garlic worked in that show.

    Let’s see… I’m currently working my way through BSG (through season 2, and I’ve thus far avoided any spoilers, which is rather amazing). What if someone actually started selling paper that had all the corners cut off?

    Yeah, these suck, I’m sure. It’s been a long week, and my brain is dead.

  • James

    I remember seeing a tv show a few years ago, and one woman asked another if she had done something different with her hair. The response was that the second woman had started using a new hair colouring product (Clairol or Pantene, I think), and how much she loved it.

    It was such an extremely obvious piece, but I was impressed with it as it was also presented as an actual conversation that people would have.

  • Guido

    Anything that would naturally be encountered in real life, I guess. The problem is that advertisers don’t settle for subtle. When two people get into a car, my eyes are not naturally drawn to the “Oldsmobile” label, but I see camera shots like this all the time. It pulls me right out of the story.

    I understand the question, but I am sick of advertisers crawling over each other to get in front of my eyes. For example, there are ads on the floors of my local hardware store. Marketing pitch: “Hey, have you noticed how people like to shoe gaze? Let’s give ’em something to think about!”

    I’d much rather see a good old-fashioned 5-minute spiel for laundry detergent during a commercial break than to see the detergent in every other scene, or two actors unnaturally positioned on either side of a perfectly centered box of cereal. I know, I’m taking the fun out of it, but product placement is almost a “church-and-state” issue to me. Art should be art, and actors should not have to be product whores.

  • JosephFM

    Hopefully that will take this in the same direction as Aqua Teen Hunger Force did with Boost Mobile.

  • JosephFM

    That said, I think for seamless product placement it’s pretty much impossible to top Robert Zemeckis. Back to the Future – De Lorean Motors. Cast Away – FedEx.

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