Product Placement

December 22, 2009

Up in the Air: Product placement done right

A few weeks ago I saw Up in the Air, the new film directed by Jason Reitman. It's a great movie, worthy of the hype it's been getting, but I was most intrigued not by the acting or the topical themes, but by the very obvious product placement from Hilton hotels and American Airlines.

In fact, Hilton and American are more than just product placements in Up in the Air. According to a recent article in Advertising Age, Hilton and American Airlines are integrated-marketing partners for the film. This allows the film to promote the brands and vice versa: both Hilton and American are currently running sweepstakes related to the film and Up in the Air's website has a prominent section devoted to its partners.

Continue reading "Up in the Air: Product placement done right" »

December 6, 2008

Product Placement: A Necessary Evil?

I love my DVR for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it allows me to watch more TV and fewer commercials. Using my DVR to fast-forward through commercials turns a 30-minute sitcom into a 22-minute sitcom. Those extra 8 minutes mean I can watch four sitcoms in the time it used to take to watch three. And all without having to sit through a single ad.

I scanned through all the commercials during the November 6 episode of NBC's My Name is Earl, but I still had to watch an advertisement. An entire story line in the episode centers on Joy's (Jaime Pressly) desire for a necklace designed by Jane Seymour and sold at Kay Jewelers. Joy sees the necklace in a television commercial and embarks on a ridiculous quest--involving rockets-- to raise the money necessary to purchase it. Zany antics ensue, and Joy is eventually rewarded when her husband presents her with an "Open Hearts" necklace at the end of the episode.

Continue reading "Product Placement: A Necessary Evil?" »

June 26, 2008

The Dangerous World of a GPS That Does Not Exist

Every now and then something crosses my inbox that makes my jaw drop. Sometimes it's genius, sometimes it's astonishingly crass, and sometimes it's a combination of the two. This morning's report from on the Mio Knight Rider GPS is definitely a category three jaw-dropper.

On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. If you're going to have your car talk to you, and you're one of the generation of geeks that grew up in the 80's, you're most likely going to be secretly pretending that your compact or SUV is the Knight Industries Two Thousand anyway. On the other, this ranks right up there with a lightsaber remote control in burying the needle on the dorkometer. If nothing else, installing this sucker will provide a perfect litmus test for every future blind date that might set foot in your ride. Ever.

All easy jokes aside, the Knight Rider GPS actually does provoke some interesting thoughts. First, it's interesting that Mio licensed the original, 1980s voice of KITT, William Daniels, instead of the new KITT from NBC's upcoming Knight Rider remake. This might have something to do with the new voice being out of Mio's price range (I'd expect Val Kilmer doesn't come cheap), but since the device is scheduled to go on sale in "the August timeframe" and the new show is scheduled to launch on September 24th, I'd imagine there will be at least some would-be buyers scratching their heads and wondering why this KITT doesn't sound like the KITT on their TVs every Wednesday night. If the show takes off (as the pilot movie's 13 million viewers would seem to suggest), this could prove to be a real gotcha.

Second, is the voice from a 20-year-old cult TV show enough to justify a purchase when so many other interesting competitors are flooding the market? The Knight Rider GPS will supposedly retail for $270, which is $70 more than the 3G Apple iPhone with true GPS under its hood. Alpha geeks that sneer at Apple fanboys might be more interested in ponying up the extra forty bucks for the $299 Dash Express, which bills itself as the "first two-way, Internet-connected GPS navigation system". If the market for the Knight Rider GPS is an inherently geeky one, the iPhone and the Dash Express seem to be two pretty big shakers in that market already.

Finally, does this open the door for a whole raft of novelty GPS devices? How long will it be before we see a GPS with a UI lifted right from the Enterprise and the voice of Jonathan Frakes, that only responds if it's addressed as "Number One"? Or one with a brass-and-woodgrain casing that boots up with a whistle and responds to "Starbuck"?

A more interesting idea is the GPS as a platform for personalization across different drivers – we already have Mr. T, Dennis Hopper and Burt Reynolds giving us directions, and Nintendo's Wii Fit can have different trainers assigned to personal profiles, so why not GPS devices that recognize who's driving and customize their voices to each driver's preferences – or change their voices based on the time of day or location? During normal driving hours you might want to be guided by the soothing baritone of Patrick Stewart, but perhaps late at night when you might doze off behind the wheel the device could switch to the grating screech of Gilbert Gottfried. (Or, worse, it could direct all of its sound output to the rear speakers and imitate your mother-in-law. Hey, it could happen.)

Of course, as any hot-rodder, art car builder or bumper sticker aficionado could tell you, our vehicles have always been platforms for customization. Even giving them distinctive voices isn't anything new – all it takes is a couple of playing cards in the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Our vehicles are, for many of us, extensions of our personalities – and if your personality has been secretly dying to deploy out the back of a semi truck on some lost American highway for the last twenty years, then hey, more power to you.

Just please, please don't try the turbo boost.

May 6, 2008

Product Placement and Soap Operas

In my final piece this afternoon regarding product placement, I wanted to provide some excerpts from my research on the subject of acceptable and unacceptable placement. This project started as my Master's thesis work (see original submitted version here--today is the one year anniversary of my thesis defens...ahem...consultation), and I have continued editing the manuscript, eyeing eventual publication. Let me know if you have any thoughts, queries, or disagreements.

Product Placement in As the World Turns

In my manuscript chapter entitled "Not So Nice 'n Easy," I wrote about an example from As the World Turns, in which a longtime character, Margo Hughes, notices gray in her hair. Hughes, one of the senior officers of the local police station, talks to her mother-in-law about it at the police station and gets a recommendation to use Nice 'n Easy, which she does. Later, in the same episode, we hear how satisfied she is with the results...

While there was some attempt to use the Nice 'n Easy product integration for humor, viewers and columnists did not find the disruptive audio references to the hair product amusing in the least.

Continue reading "Product Placement and Soap Operas" »

Product Placement: C3's Work on Implicit Contracts and Reverse Placement

I think product placement and good television can co-exist in cases where the product doesn't get in the way of the text. It should be a utility to further the story, first and foremost, or to add realism to the drama, not a way to insert commercials into the text. If it provides some of the latter, great for business, but the $$$ deal can't be put first, at least if companies don't want to annoy their audiences.

However, as I wrote about in my thesis work, the worst that can happen is visual combined with reference, unless it is done in an ironic way (and that only works in rare form, so marketers don't think you can just pull an out by being funny with the brand and then laughing all the way to the bank).

Implicit Contract

C3 Alum Alec Austin did a significant amount of work while he was here looking into the history of product placement and what makes product placement look particularly good or bad. For one of the internal studies for the Consortium, entitled Selling Creatively: Product Placement in the New Media Landscape, Alec writes about the long history of product placement in American television, the problem with industry and critics alike pretending as if product placement is new considering its central place on radio and in early television (i.e. the Texaco men, the origin of "soap operas," etc.), and the need for a more nuanced way to understand what successful product placement would look like.

Continue reading "Product Placement: C3's Work on Implicit Contracts and Reverse Placement" »

The Riches and Product Placement Gone Wrong

In trying to catch up on my reading this week, I noticed that C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken continues his look at product placement done poorly over at FX, this time writing about a conversation about buying a GMC as part of the dialogue of the show.

Grant first writes about a character in The Riches driving a GMC car, noting that GMC both appears throughout the show and is advertised at several points during commercial breaks. He says, "I don't like product placement, as I have argued here, but as long as we TIVO through the ads this is perhaps forgivable."

However, it is the insertion of a pitch about the GMC into dialogue that becomes the blatant offender here. Grant writes:

Holy ****. This may very well be the most egregious example of commercial interference ever registered in our culture. Recall that my original objection to FX was that they put an ad for one of their shows in the corner of the screen for the duration of an episode. I thought this was a little much. But to put a sales pitch in the middle of the dramatic action, and to reduce a dramatic genius like Minnie Driver to a product pitcher, this is insufferable.

Grant ends with a call to action, wondering how the audience can discourage such blatant pitching in the middle of a show and questioning what commercial force might be held responsible for such a deal.

Continue reading "The Riches and Product Placement Gone Wrong" »

November 5, 2007

The Applebee's in Dillon, Texas

The theory is that Friday Night Lights just hasn't grown a bigger audience because most people have never watched it. More than most shows, it does seem that I don't find people peripherally familiar with it; the people I talk to who have seen it absolutely love it, and everyone else says they have never watched. The show feels real in a way that few primetime shows have, and there's one element in particular that FNL does better than any other show on television: product placement and integration.

The Applebee's integration into FNL is the best use of product integration I've ever seen. The restaurant is a prominent part of the story at many points, as one of the key characters works as a waitress there and it's the de facto place to stop in town for a nicer meal, if players or their parents aren't going to the local burger shop or the "Alamo Freeze." Actually, the "Alamo Freeze" is a Dairy Queen, and you can easily tell that's the case, complete with partial shots of the Dairy Queen sign and Blizzards on the menu. My understanding is that it is even filmed at a Dairy Queen in Austin, Texas, but that they've chosen to make it a localized restaurant instead.

Continue reading "The Applebee's in Dillon, Texas" »

September 21, 2007

New Tide-Sponsored Online/Mobile Video Series

The latest news coming out about an online series ties into writing we've been doing here at the Convergence Culture Consortium about online video, branded entertainment, and soap operas. Procter & Gamble's Tide brand will be the sponsor of a new broadband series through GoTV Networks, a 10-parter called Crescent Heights.

The series, written by Mike Martineau of Rescue Me fame (see this post relating to Jason Mittell's writing about the FX series and how he feels it serves as a hypermasculine soap opera), will be available not just through Tide's Web site but also through mobile providers as well.

Continue reading "New Tide-Sponsored Online/Mobile Video Series" »

September 14, 2007

Gamekillers and Branded Entertainment

Yesterday, I was walking into the lobby of Five Cambridge Center, where the Convergence Culture Consortium offices are located, when a newspaper on the front desk caught my eye. Now, the subscription to this Wall Street Journal was for one of my neighbors on another floor of the center, so I could only glance at the headline, but it involved two things of interest to me: our partner, MTV, and deodorant.

Of course, I guess deodorant is of the interest of many of the C3 readers, but I am particularly interested because of my fascination with the history of product placement, and particularly with the history of soaps and everyday items as product placement. Considering my interest in soap operas, I often emphasize the fact that this was a whole genre (or format, depending on your perspective) which was set up under the notion of product integration or branded entertainment, two phrases that have become quite the buzzwords for the industry.

Continue reading "Gamekillers and Branded Entertainment" »

August 23, 2007

Lonelygirl15 and Advertising Models

In trying to push forward with some much-needed updates to the blog this week, something else caught my eye: Kimberly D. Williams' in-depth article from Advertising Age on the season finale of Lonelygirl. The article is not openly available from Ad Age, but TelevisionWeek has the story available here.

Don't click on the article, though, if you don't want to read spoilers, because they give away a pretty big chunk of information on the online video series. Guess they aren't quite as sensitive to the spoiler issues we've been discussing here recently. If you missed it, see our posting from last month on the Harry Potter book spoiler controversy here and here.

Continue reading "Lonelygirl15 and Advertising Models" »

July 31, 2007

Producers, Writers, and Advertisers Harmed by the Hype

How is the hype and bluster surrounding "branded entertainment," "transmedia storytelling," and "product placement" endangering real and meaningful developments in actually making these concepts a real part of the industry?

People who read our blog here regularly know that we are quite keen on these concepts. But, of course, we come at it primarily from a fan-centered perspective, and that fannishness has a lot to do with artistry as well. We are excited to know about how product placement might help escape from the confines of the simple-minded advertising models currently in place; how transmedia storytelling might help media properties better tell their stories without the confines of a particular medium; and so on.

But the over-hyping of some of these ideas cause great problems. See Wayne Friedman's take on product placement. He talks with producers about product integration, and he points out that many of them are sour on it? Why? Because of the instant desire of the industry to turn everything into a stream. You can't just have something appear on a show; it has to take over the show. We still haven't tackled the art of subtlety. And if you can't make a quick and simple metric out of it, what use is it?

Continue reading "Producers, Writers, and Advertisers Harmed by the Hype" »

July 24, 2007

Reverse Product Placement, The Simpsons, and the Value of the 7-Eleven Brand

Over the past few days, there have been a couple of interesting ideas batted around by C3 consulting researchers and alumni on a couple of issues that I thought might be of direct interest to the wider C3 readership. With all that is happening in the fan fallout from Harry Potter, the repercussions and new business deals stemming from the upfronts, and all the issues we've been covering more regularly, I thought that pointing the way toward a couple of those pieces might be beneficial.

One is an issue that I've been following from afar. I've never been an avid Simpsons viewer, although I appreciate its place in popular culture. It's not even that I have any aversion to The Simpsons, but I've just never become a regular viewer. Nevertheless, I've been paying attention to the promotion of The Simpsons Movie, both in the transformation of 7-Eleven Stores to Kwik-E Marts and in the competition for deciding which Springfield is the home of the Simpson family.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Jason Mittell had published a piece on the Springfield competition. Now, Grant McCracken has weighed in on the Kwik-E Mart cross-promotion.

Continue reading "Reverse Product Placement, The Simpsons, and the Value of the 7-Eleven Brand" »

July 16, 2007

Cadillac/Damages Latest Example of FX Single-Sponsor Model

FX continues their interesting model of single-sponsored shows, the latest of which will be for the premiere of their newest series starring Glenn Close, Damages.

Close, coming off a heralded performance in season four of The Shield as Captain Monica Rawling, will star in a show about lawyers.

This time, the sponsor will be Cadillac, who will not only be the sole sponsor of the show and provide a commercial-free season premiere, but whose cars will also be integrated through the series.

This combination of product placement/integration with single-sponsor content is yet another hybrid of a model that seems to be fairly consist for FX season and series premieres. It seems to be a model that works well enough to continue returning to it as special events for important episodes, but we have not seen it port over to whole season deals for any FX shows of yet.

Continue reading "Cadillac/Damages Latest Example of FX Single-Sponsor Model" »

May 20, 2007

Media Industry Jobs in a Convergence Culture

Several of the researchers in C3 have just finished or are in the process of finishing their Master's thesis projects, which means many of us now have the prospect of graduation staring us in the face. Here at C3, we have had the great opportunity to not only work academically as researchers while graduate students but also to interact with the media industry and work with folks at our corporate partners on a variety of initiatives, meaning that a majority of the people coming out of C3 are interested in maintaining a relationship to both academia and the media industry moving forward.

But, as job hunts loom on the horizons and as colleagues start to land jobs elsewhere, we all have to consider what it means, in both the industry and academia, to come away with expertise in issues such as understanding fan communities, transmedia storytelling, new advertising models, and the variety of other focuses that C3 research has taken.

Continue reading "Media Industry Jobs in a Convergence Culture" »

April 28, 2007

Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom: Integrating Content and Advertising Across Multiple Media Platforms

News came out about a week-and-a-half ago as to an interesting new marketing and transmedia storytelling plan that will be launched across Warner Brothers and through the CW Network with Toyota.

John Consoli with MediaWeek reports on a marketing initiative for CW drama series Smallville which will last for five weeks across several platforms.

This marketing and storytelling initiative across platforms began with the CW episode of Smallville that aired on April 18 and will last through the show's season finale, which will air on May 17.

This cross-platform initiative is being called Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom.

The marketing part of this initiative is called a "content wrap," a model launched by CW this semester which Consoli explains is "advertiser-aligned content that takes the place of typical 30-second TV commercials during programming, targeted to appeal to specific demographic audiences." In other words, the story on the main show is supplemented by original advertiser-based content that airs during what would conventionally be commercial breaks.

However, this Toyota campaign is the first time this wrap has launched around a single advertiser across multiple media forms, driven by the online game, which relates to the final five episodes of the show this season.

Continue reading "Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom: Integrating Content and Advertising Across Multiple Media Platforms" »

April 20, 2007

Lonelygirl15 Spinoff KateModern Integrated with UK Social Network Bebo, Funded by Product Placement

The creators of the Lonelygirl15 phenomenon are going to try to capitalize on the strong interest they generated with their series on YouTube by launching a European "social networking spin-off," as it was called on MarketingVOX, called KateModern.

The series of 2-to-4-minute Webisodes will air on Bebo, a popular European social networking site and will feature a teenage female from London. The plan is to create an interactive community surrounding the show in which, for instance, puzzles will be introduced that fans will get credit for solving on the show; if no fan solves these puzzles, the characters on the show will instead.

Lonelygirl15 has been an Internet phenomenon, and the MarketingVOX story points out that it is the most subscribed-to YouTube channel by this point, "boasting over 91,000 subscribers and 10.2 million views."

The show will be officially called Lonelygirl15 Presents...KateModern, and Deborah Netburn with the L.A. Times reports that it will be "the story of a Lonelygirl-esque 19-year-old British college student, her friends and the mysterious dark forces that permeate her life (the same dark forces featured prominently in recent Lonelygirl episodes).

Continue reading "Lonelygirl15 Spinoff KateModern Integrated with UK Social Network Bebo, Funded by Product Placement" »

April 15, 2007

New York Times Previews Potential Upcoming Battle between Writers, Conglomerates

Last week, the New York Times had a great article about the potential upcoming battle between the writers guild and the entertainment industry as the writers unions for the Writes Guild of America, both East and West, will come down to what reporter MIchael Cieply calls "what are expected to be exceedingly difficult negotiations with the conglomerates that own the networks and studios."

According to the article, the major points of contention for the negotiations between the union and the industry this time around will be "the expansion of nonunion work by units of large media conglomerates like Viacom and News Corporation, and the way artists will be compensated for their work on the Web, mobile devices and other technologies still falling into place."

WGA West President Patric Verrone said that 95 percent of Hollywood's writing jobs for television and major films were covered by guild writers in the mid-1980s, as compared to about 55 percent now as companies use nonguild writers for reality television, animated TV, and other shows.

Continue reading "New York Times Previews Potential Upcoming Battle between Writers, Conglomerates" »

Commercial Ratings, Measurement Accuracy, and Engagement

Yesterday, I wrote about a discussion from the 2007 TV Upfront Summit in New York this past week, sponsored by Advertising Age and TelevisionWeek.

Today, I wanted to elaborate on another interesting round of discussions that came from that conference, specifically centering on a conversation of audience engagement, commercial ratings, and the Nielsens.

Measurement has been the major question on people's minds over the past few years, both in how accurate current measurements are and the accuracy of what is being measured. WIth the Nielsen ratings sample being considered by many as an inevitably flawed number, yet a number the industry remains reliant upon for the whole economic structure of both broadcast and cable television, questions have swirled around both ways Nielsen can better measure viewership and also around potential alternatives.

Further, others are questioning the use of measuring whether someone has their television set on or not in the first place and whether there are better ways to measure engagement that take a more qualitative look at valuing the kinds of programs that keep people more involved, favoring serialized television in its various formats, among other programming types.

Continue reading "Commercial Ratings, Measurement Accuracy, and Engagement" »

April 13, 2007

P&G, Product Placement, and Mo'Nique

Reality television is particularly open for product placement and even product integration. We have written about this here in the past, but the deal struck last week between major advertiser Procter & Gamble and reality television show Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance on Oxygen is yet another example of how this partnership works.

The reality show, now in its third season, will use P&G products in a lounge for its casting calls, and P&G products will be used as sponsors in on-air vignettes and online video as well. The deal is part of P&G's attempts to reach African American women with Cover Girl and Pantene.

For those who don't know about the show, F.A.T. stands for "fabulous and thick," and the show features women who emphasize that a "plus-size" look is beautiful. In the TelevisionWeek story from Jon Lafayette, an Oxygen representative called Mo'Nique's audience for the show "passionate, loyal and highly involved."

Continue reading "P&G, Product Placement, and Mo'Nique" »

March 24, 2007

Ad Sale Increases Driven by Rise in Internet Sales, Top 100 Spot Sales, While Product Placement Numbers Drop

The verdict on 2006 is final, at least according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and it looks like the Internet and spot television in Top 100 markets were the major drivers.

The report was that advertising spending on the Internet increased 35 percent, while Internet ads in the Top 100 spot TV markets rose 9.1 percent, followed by Spanish-language television and outdoor programming, both at 8.1 percent.

According to the official press release, "Growth in a number of media remained flat or slightly down" with a list including business-to-business magazines, coupons, smaller spot TV markets, network radio, and local newspapers.

According to the study, dramas overtook situation comedies for the most appearances of "brand integrations," largely due to the growing number of dramas as compared to sitcoms on the air. According to the press release, "American Idol featured 4,086 product placements, with more occurrences than any other program, a 17% increase over 2005."

Continue reading "Ad Sale Increases Driven by Rise in Internet Sales, Top 100 Spot Sales, While Product Placement Numbers Drop" »

January 31, 2007

Reverse Product Placement and C3 Members' Ideas in the Popular Press

Anyone see the C3-inspired article by Todd Wasserman with BrandWeek on reverse product placement this week, a process through which brands from a fictional world are made available as products in the "real world." The article stems from research from two of our affiliate research, Ilya Vedrashko and David Edery. The discussion of reverse product placement, particularly in games, has been a focus here at C3 throughout our formative years, as the quotes from Edery and Vedrashko indicate.

Edery, who now works for Microsoft's Xbox division and who has written about the idea of reverse product placement for Harvard Business Review, while Vedrashko is an emerging media strategies for Hill, Holiday.

The phrase "reverse product placement" is an interesting term to use to label the practice of marketing items out of a narrative world.

The idea of taking something out of a narrative world and making it available in the real world surrounded media marketing from the beginning. Wearing the clothes or buying the brands that one sees on screen or even reads in a book, as my colleague Ivan Askwith is fond of reminding everyone, stretches back to the work of Charles Dickens, and that desire to buy the brands of your favorite character is the drive behind product placement.

Continue reading "Reverse Product Placement and C3 Members' Ideas in the Popular Press" »

January 18, 2007

24/Sprint Deal Provides 24 with Ancillary Content, Sprint with Substantial Product Placement

A new mobile phone deal struck between Sprint and the hit television series 24 will bring episode previews to cell users, according to a deal announced a little over a week ago. After each episode airs on Monday night, clips from the next week's episode are made available for those who use the Sprint video services Sprint Power Vision or Sprint TV.

A variety of other planned cell activities will help promote the link with 24 as well including trivia games in which a prize will be offered--a trip to a Florida "covert ops" training camp.

In return for the deal, Sprint receives product placement, as Sprint products will appear on episodes of 24 throughout the season.

Continue reading "24/Sprint Deal Provides 24 with Ancillary Content, Sprint with Substantial Product Placement" »

December 29, 2006

Wilson, Cast Away, and Product Placement/Integration: Maynard and Scala's Essay

Back in August, in the fourth issue of this year's Journal of Popular Culture, there was a great essay on product placement and looking at the unpaid placement of the Wilson ball in the Tom Hanks scenes on the deserted island in Cast Away.

The essay examines the rising business of product placements in film and television and looks at the Wilson example to try and figure out how much a product placement of that sort would have cost Wilson and also a qualitative analysis of the effects of this type of brand exposure.

This piece, "Unpaid Advertising: A Case of Wilson the Volleyball in Cast Away," is written by Dr. Michael L. Maynard, who is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising at Temple University, and Megan Scala, a doctoral candidate at Temple.

Continue reading "Wilson, Cast Away, and Product Placement/Integration: Maynard and Scala's Essay" »

December 6, 2006

Studio 60 and Product Placement

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has been the location of a lot of interesting discussion this television season--about the importance of "high-end" educational and financial viewers versus "the masses," about the importance given to prestige programs versus programs that draw major audiences, etc. The Aaron Sorkin show has been renewed while many shows have fallen, both by drawing more affluent viewers and by having a prestige factor, even as the latest episode was the lowest rated yet.

Being a major fan of The West Wing and always a follower of sketch comedy, I was interested in this show from its very beginning. And, while I'm disappointed that we don't see enough of the actual show per episode (what a great transmedia project releasing an actual episode of Studio 60 from time-to-time would be!), the show does have some intelligent and insightful (and funny) commentary about politics, religion, and Hollywood.

Particularly interesting to the research we do here at C3 is a recent discussion on the Nov. 27 episode about bolstering Studio 60--the fictional sketch comedy show, rather than the real thing--with product placement to make it more profitable and to help offset the potential of cutbacks. Considering how controversial these questions have been in the "real world" of the entertainment industry, it was intriguing to see them as a plot point on the show. The major points of contention has been from the writers, who feel that product plugs are placing new forms of revenue that carry with them new responsibilities for writers that they are not being properly compensated for.

Continue reading "Studio 60 and Product Placement" »

November 24, 2006

Burger King Xbox games available

The Burger King Xbox games featuring "the King" are now available in Burger King outlets for $3.99 if you buy a value meal. Joystiq has the scoop, along with reviews of each of the 3 games.

November 15, 2006

Chili's Everywhere: The Restaurant's Aggressive Integration Campaign on Veronica Mars and The OC

For those who watch a lot of teen dramas and/or teen detective shows, you may have noticed a hot new character breaking onto the scene in the past couple of weeks, apparently branching across networks. I'm talking about Chili's, the bar and grill well-known for its ribs jingle, among other things.

In the past few weeks, regular viewers of Veronica Mars has seen Chili's figure prominently into scenes shot in the food court of Veronica's college. In last night's episode, she even approached one of her professors who was purchasing food at Chili's and offered her a rib, which Veronica didn't want to take because she didn't want to get her hands dirty, a scene that had resonance with the story itself since Veronica felt that the teacher's offer to recommend her for an internship was a payoff to keep her quiet about her catching him having an affair with the dean's wife.

I got an e-mail from one of my colleagues here at the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, Neal Grigsby, who said that when he ate at a Chili's not long ago, there was an all-out CW cross-promotion, with ads for The CW on Chili's menus and coasters that asked various trivia questions about shows on the new network's lineup. Neal's summary: "Guess they're going for Total Chili's Awareness in the teen set."

Continue reading "Chili's Everywhere: The Restaurant's Aggressive Integration Campaign on Veronica Mars and The OC" »

June 29, 2006

Madison and Vine Advocates a Drive to Digital Video

According to a news article/commentary yesterday from Advertising Age's Madison and Vine Web site, video consumption online has grown 18 percent over the past seven months, with the average consumer now watching slightly less than 100 minutes of video a month.

The Madison and Vine piece looks at the trend of advertising to follow this trail, with major reallocations of traditional television ad funds now going to new or integrated media. While it isn't surprising that this growth in consumption leads to an influx of advertising revenue supporting online sites with video content, the article highlighted or alluded to a few important implications that greatly affect recent discussions we've had here on this blog:

1.) Transmedia content--With digital streaming poised to become increasingly profitable, those companies who integrate online video content as part of their entertainment package are at a particular advantage. If companies have bonus content available for download or streaming online, they can easily package ad sales that include advertising or sponsorship of both the traditional content and digital content that may become increasingly attractive to advertisers, who would benefit from having a strong association with dedicated fans who follow the product across multiple platforms;

2.) Product placement--As the Madison and Vine article points out, those companies who are paying for product placement now have added incentives, since more and more television shows are becoming available for digital download or streaming. While traditional ads or the ads that run on television are not present in a lot of these digital presentations, all product placements are--indicating that placing products on a show is the smarter investment long-term.

3.) Promotional films--Creating branded video content subtly promoting a product, such as the famed BMW Films campaign, is proving itself to be an attractive option for reaching customers turned off by push advertising. Increased video streaming gives advertisers more of an impetus for creating compelling content that viewers want to stream or download and gives creative independent talents a chance to shine...It's smart marketing and less offensive to commercial-sensitive viewers.

It's hard to find much fault with Madison & Vine's final call--for marketers to "take heed" and take advantage of an audience "hungry for programming." For advertisers and for media content producers, digital video not only provides a chance for revenues and a chance to provide consumers what they want but also makes possible an environment that better enables transmedia content and new forms of storytelling.

Thanks to fellow C3 media analyst Geoffrey Long for directing me to this article.

June 19, 2006

Cathy's Book and Product Placement

Several posts in the last couple of months on our blog have been dedicated to product placement and product integration in television programming, but the news that received some play last week of a Cover Girl novel crossover reminds us once again at how well books can cover product placement as well.

Cover Girl, along with parent company Procter & Gamble, will be working with Running Press, part of Perseus, to promote Cover Girl throughout several references in a new novel called Cathy's Book, written by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart. The book will be inspired by the principles of alternate reality games (ARGs), and the authors previously worked on "The Beast" and "I Love Bees."

The novel will include references to Cover Girl lipsticks and eyeliners, among other things, and Cover Girl will promote the release of the novel. According to a post by Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, the novel included references to makeup brands but were only changed after a deal was put in place with Cover Girl.

But, it didn't take long to get the non-profits after them. Commercial Alert, a non-profit organization dedicated to "protecting communities against commercialism," have contacted book reviewers across the country, requesting that they boycott the novel because of its product placement.

Apparently, these organizations have particular problems with this book, as it is being marketed to teens. The problem here is probably not as much that the products are being used but that the company is receiving extra money for that placement. While the company has made the distinction that the book clearly called for a product there and that the deal came organically from that, Commercial Alert is not quite so excited.

The publishers, Perseus, quickly came to the book's and the authors' defense, with CEO David Steinberger saying that "calling for a review boycott is a form of censorship." In this case, I have to agree with the authors. While I understand Commercial Alert's sensitivity to commercialism and have seen plenty of great works ruined by product placement, this is a little different. If the product placement is organic, I don't think it's a problem, especially since we live in a branded world. And the book seems to have much more of a point than simply advertising Cover Girl. Steinberger says that the authors have a right to include these placements, "incorporating real-world elements consistent with their vision."

Further, I agree that the worst approach of all is attaching reviewers instead of engaging in public debate about product placement. What Commercial Alert is trying to do is end the debate before it starts, to eliminate the other side completely and not allow the book to get reviewed. And that's more dangerous to our rights as Americans as the commercialism of Perseus Publishing could ever be.

Thanks to Joshua Green for passing this along.

June 15, 2006

Sponsors Line Up for Reality Show's Next Season

Bravo's hit reality show Project Runway will be signing up a sizable list of substantial sponsors, who will be integrated into the show in one way or another.

The sponsors include Macy's, Delta Air Lines, L'Oreal Paris, Saturn, Orbitz, and TRESemme.

Involvement with most of these brands included on-air presence and product integration infused throughout the show, as well as an online presence.

Considering the natural way that many of these products fit with the show, this makes sense. Further, there seems to be less of a backlash against reality shows having product placement as fictional programs, where it seems that some sort of creative aesthetic is damaged by heavy product integration.

On the other hand, reality shows already lack a sense of suspension of disbelief that fictional programs do, so that they draw attention to the fact that it is a show. This is the way that they've avoided the backlash I've blogged about before with the WGA. As I mentioned then, shows like Project Runway are not badly hurt by extensive use of sponsor names because it doesn't seem as absurd and because contestants are already in contrived situations so that, even if giving away a Saturn vehicle to the winner seems pretty overt, it works within the "game" aspect of the reality show.

Both Ivan Askwith and Rachel Shearer have followed the WGA battle with product integration in the past here on our blog as well.

And the reality genre's ability to do product integration without continued backlash is another reason why it may be such preferable program to many executives (even though many of these programs probably won't fare as well in their long tail future).

Any other thoughts?

My Thoughts on "The Word"

Last night, I set my DVR (gasp!) to record The Colbert Report to my hard drive. I watched it a few hours ago and was surprised when his popular "The Word" segment featured a current Congressional debate that was the topic of one of my posts here last week: the push to raise indecency fines for television broadcasters by adding a zero to the end.

For those who haven't seen Colbert's "The Word" segment, he goes through a verbal diatribe while a graphic beside him displays one-liners that either contradict or further illustrates points that he's making. On this particular episode, he was discussing the current drive by conservative Christian "family" groups like the Parents Television Council to define what's indecent on television.

Colbert mocked how the group's encouragement of free speech and citizen voice was really nothing more than ventriloquism, as a recent drive to protest the show Without a Trace containing a scene simulating an orgy resulted in a massive numbers of form letters computer-generated by members of a group like this through their Web site.

Colbert's main complaint with this proposal is both that this type of encouragement of censorship is outside the purview of what our government should be doing in the first place, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but also that raising the fees will cause networks to become more and more gun shy of airing any new or potentially controversial types of programming, lest the PTC have its sensibilities offended. That's the point that I made in my blog post last week, that these initiatives could greatly hinder the autonomy of show creators and writers to create meaningful, interesting, artistic, and challenging content. In other words, censorship is hardly ever a good thing.

On Colbert's "snippet" preview of his show on The Daily Show, he spoofed product placement by bringing us his pre-show, sponsored by Coca-Cola, in which he did nothing but drink a Coke and then advertise his post-show, sponsored by Budweiser, with a huge Budweiser graphic. This coincides with the drive we've had since this blog's beginning toward understanding the difference between product placement and product integration, which I posted about a couple of weeks ago.

But, could these be coincidences? Maybe Mr. Colbert is reading this blog every night after his show airs. If so, Stephen Colbert deserves a "tip of the hat."

(By the way, if you're interested in watching this particular episode of The Colbert Report, it's available on iTunes).

May 25, 2006

Product Placement vs. Product Integration

Not that long ago, I had a discussion with a seasoned veteran of television writing who was not happy with orders from above of blatant product integration in the show that person was writing for.

It's been a common and growing complaint, so much so that the Writers Guild of America East recently released a statement calling for regluations of integration and inclusion of actors and writers both on the process of deciding appropriate uses of product integration and also to be included in the benefits.

According to a story by Jon Lafayette for TelevisionWeek, the writers called for a distinction to be made between "product placement" and "product integration." In this case, they are arguing against the use of blatant product placement versus natural product placement, an issue that has been close to our reserach over the past year, particularly through the research of my C3 colleague Alec Austin.

Some television programs allow for product integration, using the WGA distinction, more than others. Particularly, it seems that reality television shows or sporting events are not as badly hurt by the extensive use of sponsor names because it doesn't seem as absurd. Both are already controlled environments and in fact gain their narrative drive from that contrived situation, whether it be a game or a reality competition.

However, in fictional dramatic or comedy series, product integration can easily destroy the viewer's suspension of disbelief in a way that detracts from viewer involvement and the perceived aristry of a show.

Yet, episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City prove that episodes can have a particular brand name or product involved deeply in an episode without detracting from the power of the show, if it is not something imposed on the writers but instead something the creative team is a part of from the conception.

So, I don't see the WGA's call for inclusion as a threat but rather a great benefit to the future of effective product placement. When creative teams are saying that they see the economic reality of product placement but only object to it being done poorly, it seems they've found a mantra that the entire industry should get behind.

March 10, 2006

Product Placement Backlash!

A handful of events seem to reveal a growing objection to product placement as a survival strategy in the entertainment industry.

Via TV Squad, a report that actors and writers are protesting product placement:

"Both groups are pushing for regulations, or a 'code of conduct' on product placement in television and movies. At the very least, they want more money for not only being storytellers but also advertising copywriters.

While Pepsi cans and Fed Ex trucks in the background are all strategically placed, the writers and actors have a problem when the powers-that-be require them to work products into a story or even write an entire story around a product."

Add to that an NYT article which C3 Advisor William Uricchio just passed us ("In Parody Video, Writers Ridicule Placing Products"):

A Hollywood union is stepping up its campaign against the embedding of brands and products in entertainment and, as they say in the movies, this time it's personal.

The Writers Guild of America, West, is making fun of the interweaving of sponsors' wares into films and TV shows with a so-called viral video that is scheduled to appear this week on a union-sponsored Web site ( The video mocks Tyra Banks, the host of the popular reality series America's Next Top Model, which features in its episodes the Cover Girl brand of cosmetics sold by the Procter & Gamble Company.

Tough times for the advertising industry?

February 20, 2006

Is It Product Placement?

Leave it to Pixar...The creative computer animation company now housed in the Disney family caught my eye with some of their shots for their upcoming film Cars, starring such creative forces as Paul Newman, Owen Wilson and...Larry The Cable Guy.

What caught my eye in particular was a detail that borders somewhere between parody and product placement. The situation got me thinking about what IS product placement...

The Pixar car has written across the tires "Lightyear" in the same font and placement as Goodyear Tires. For those familiar with Pixar's history, you will know that the "Lightyear" is a reference to the first Pixar film, Toy Story, in which one of the primary characters was named Buzz Lightyear.

The detail shows Pixar's creativity in every corner of their work, but it also bolsters the idea that Goodyear is the big name in tires...When can parody be product placement? Would a company be able to get a company to shell money out to parody its name in this fashion, when no direct product is even placed in the picture?

Product Placement and Soaps

Back in December, I posted an entry about a discussion on product placement in soaps from Michael Gill's Media Domain Board for As the World Turns.

At the time, everyone who posted on the thread agreed that product placement would be more effective, more natural, and possibly the only way for soap operas to survive, longterm, and people began to debate particular issues about how product placement should be handled.

Fast-forward a few months, and the same board has had a small mini-discussion with a few close watchers of ATWT regarding a particular case of product placement this past week.

One of the characters, Margo Hughes, came in with a bag of groceries, filled with Procter & Gamble merchandise. Only a few astute viewers even picked up on the fact that the majority of the items in her grocery bag were P&G items, which is the company that produces ATWT. In this case, the script called for her to be unloading her groceries in particular, and the types of items inside were completely plausible for a trip to the grocery. The items were never referenced directly, but it just felt natural--especially compared to the "Brand X" products used too often in daytime television.

These characters in the Hughes family live in the same branded world we do, and that's the type of realism that product placement done correctly can bring.

Of course, a few fans chimed in who were almost completely anti-P&G products being in the show, saying they were sickened by it, etc., but this seems to be more anti-commercialism rhetoric than anything. The majority of the viewers indicated that they found it natural, noticed but didn't pay close attention and some felt it actually added to the show to have those real products used. And most of them, the loyal and active viewers who post on message boards, also saw supporting product placement as a way to support the show and its sponsors.

Alec's the product placement expert around here, though, so I would love to have him weigh in as well...

Brand Reinforcement or "Too Much"?

Has anyone witnessed the new advertising campaign by Chrysler, whose Chrysler 300C is used in Harrison Ford's upcoming thriller Firewall (Richard Loncraine, Warner Brothers)? The company has a Web site dedicated to the film and has taken full-page ads in entertainment magazines telling viewers to "See the Crysler 300C in Firewall, in theaters now. Go for the ride of your life with the Chrysler 300C."

Is this a good example of getting the most bang for your advertising buck by building on product placements with advertising for that product placement, or is this bordering on going too far?

January 11, 2006

Unique Advertising in EW

This week's EW featured two powerful and interesting ads, I thought, from various perspectives.

The first comes at the beginning of the magazine and is a two-page spread advertising all of the various Law & Order shows on NBC. They have all the characters from all three L&O franchises stretched across the page, appearing as if they are in the middle of an investigation. Behind them is a facsimile of Times Square, with several media properties particularly noticable--a Virgin sign, Loews Theatres, Planet Hollywood, Marriott, Kodak, and Novotel, with two huge ads in the background for the iPod and Universal's King Kong.

The ad is a success in two ways--both as not just showing transmedia but as showing crossover within the various television shows of a particular media property, L&O, with all of the characters appearing in one scene, despite being on their various shows. Further, it has product placement within an advertisement, something that is more and more possible but has only been utilized occasionally. I don't know if it has ever been done quite so well as in this ad.

Similarly, I thought the idea from L'Oreal Paris was interesting. They provide a pullout ballot for the Golden Globe Awards, with four L'Oreal ads appearing on the backs of the ads featuring Beyonce Knowles and two models. I've already torn the ad out and plan to use it for the Globes, so it was at least somewhat of a success. This may feel a little more gimmicky; I don't know. But it's an effective way to make it feel as if the ballot is "brought to you by L'Oreal."

December 21, 2005

Soap fans and product placement discussion

Over on Michael Gill's Media Domain Board for As the World Turns, one thread of the discussion has focused on product placement in soaps. Since my thesis project at MIT involves looking at the soap opera industry and ways in which the companies can change their methods of advertising and storytelling based on changes and new trends in television and entertainment, I found the discussion to be illuminating.

Everyone who posted on the thread were in agreement that product placement would be more effective, more natural, and possibly the only way for soap operas to survive, longterm. The majority of the argument singled not on if but on how product placement should be done...As several of the posters pointed out, product placement in soaps, where most of the scenes take place in people's homes or in public spaces, would be easy to incorporate into the show. The local coffee place could become a Starbucks or some similar chain. And kitchens could be filled with actual food products.

When this is a serious discussion in the fan communities and seems to be widely accepted, one has to wonder why CBS and P&G have not embraced these opportunities. I'm going to look into this very issue much further in my research over the next couple of years, but what do you all think? Is product placement the logical next step for soaps regarding advertising?

You would think a company like P&G would be better at naturalistic product placement than they are. Thanks to MaryHatch for starting this discussion, by the way.

December 18, 2005

Product placement, branding, and Kong

The talk of product placement this past week has been centered around Peter Jackson's King Kong.

Last Wednesday's Metro featured an editorial from Dan Dunn that captures the complications of product placement in feature films.

Dunn's starting point is an e-mail from Chase requesting that he take out a Kong-themed MasterCard. He then finds that he can't escape the Kong crossover, from Toshiba to Burger King to Nestle Crunch to Kellogg's to Volkswagen to clothes and all types of merchandise.

We can sympathize with Dunn as he sarcastically makes a pitch for Trojan to launch the "Kongdom" or for Survivor: Skull Island because product tie-ins and crossovers shouldn't work along the lines of thinking the more, the better.

There is an emotional backlash that the audience feels when they start to realize that King Kong's face is stuck on products everywhere they go. Instead of clever tie-in or creative synergy, it starts to feel like...well...overbearing corporate propaganda that viewers can't get away from. That's not to criticize Universal in particular, but it seems to me that quality is much more valued than quantity when it comes to product tie-ins like this and that too much of a good thing can even make ardent supporters cringe at the sight of your brand on yet another box.

The editorial was placed across the page from of King Kong written by Dunn as well that calls the film "one of those extremely rare works of art powerful enough to change the way people view a medium," so it proves that the relationships are complicated and that annoyance on one side of the page is coupled with complete admiration on the other.

In Steve Daly's "Lexikong" in this week's Entertainment Weekly, though, he reveals that Peter Jackson wanted to recreate Times Square as accurately as possible for 1933, including a Columbia Pictures sign. However, Sony Pictures refused to allow the Columbia logo in the film without getting paid for it, so Universal just replaced it with their own logo.

So, imagine this...The producers of King Kong, a film getting massive amounts of hype and guaranteed to be seen by a huge audience, want to put a big sign for Columbia Pictures in their film, despite being competiton, but Sony refuses this prominent product placement because they want to get paid?

Am I missing something? Or are they?

December 13, 2005

Writers Demand Higher Pay for Product Plugs

David Cohn recounts his experience on putting together a story for Wired about reality show writers demanding more pay for product plug-ins. "Writers aren't only complaining about the increased stress of writing entertaining stories that include undercover marketing messages. Some think they should be compensated extra for taking on duties not included in their job description."

December 12, 2005

The Writer's Guild on Product Placement

An article on Wired today documents the frustration of television writers who are tired of mandated product placement and want additional compensation for writing commercial messages into their work.

Last month, the Writer's Guild of America, along with the Screen Actors Guild, called for a "Code of Conduct" for product placement in television and film, citing "the public's right to be informed of such advertising." Statistics provided by the Writer's Guild press release indicate the rising rate of product placements in television and film:

"Last year, the use of products in filmed entertainment increased 44 percent and generated revenues in excess of $1 billion. In television alone, product-related revenues skyrocketed a whopping 84 percent."

The proposed Code of Conduct would include rules about disclosure of product integration deals and restrictions on product placement in children's media; but also at issue is compensation for writers and actors. Guild members believe that incorporating products into their stories is beyond their job description: "...along with being asked to create memorable stories and characters, our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter." The whitepaper available with the press release calls for negotiation between producers and writers about additional compensation.

If their demands are not met, the Writer's Guild threatens to involve the FCC because broadcasters are bound by law to make sponsors public.

December 11, 2005

Prototype of the 21st century studio: The Weinstein Company

Cinematical reports that the Weinstein brothers just struck a deal to handle their own DVD distribution. The brothers' new post-Miramax venture, The Weinstein Company, is emerging as a case study in 21st-century convergence filmmaking. First they unveiled a US$490M round of private equity from investors (including a hefty chunk of change from Mark Cuban), then they announced a US$25M partnership with the advertising giant WPP Group not just for product placement but "as an integral part of the actual film", then they announced the first-ever major partnership between a studio and a major cosmetics company in the form of a two-year marketing and placement deal with L'Oreal Paris. I can't wait to see what they'll do with online video.

December 10, 2005

Lifestyle Gaming + Sports Gaming = Marc Ecko's Getting Up.

Marc EckoTo take my previous post in a different direction with a real world example, MTV Films just announced plans for the movie version of fashion designer Marc Ecko's Getting Up. From the official press release at

Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure adaptation as a feature project promises to be an homage to graffiti's rich culture. Told through an alternate reality in a futuristic universe, the game represents the culmination of seven years of story and character development by fashion pioneer Marc Ecko, the visionary behind several of today's most respected youth lifestyle brands. Mr. Ecko will serve as producer on the project with MTV Films' Gregg Goldin, who brought the project to the company. Jason Weiss and David Gale will be developing on behalf of MTV Films. "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure" will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"When I first began working on 'Getting Up' seven years ago, I wanted to create a storyline that provided a rare look inside of one of the most influential, yet often overlooked, artistic movements in recent history. Today, graffiti is a global cultural phenomenon and few understand its impact better than MTV, pioneers in its use as a motion graphics tool nearly two decades ago. I am delighted to have the ability to bring the depth of our story to life on film and look forward to working with the great team MTV has assembled," added Marc Ecko. "Getting Up" drops in Feb. 2006 for PS2, XBOX, and PC.

The response on the web has been mixed. From Joystiq's typical snarky commentary:

We won't get into the reasons why fashion designer Marc Ecko has a videogame with his name on it in the first place, why anyone would make a movie based on a game that hasn't even come out yet, and why anyone would want to see said movie. Branding has become such a singular and overwhelming force in videogames and movies that it alone can get both made (even though some don't make any money). Expect plenty of finger pointing and scapegoating once this movie comes out. Expect people to say the game's (potentially) piss-poor story is responsible for the movie's equivalent lack of narrative. But we'll know better.

The comments thread at Joystiq is pretty interesting as well, with several people touching on Sony's previous graffiti PR problem.

For my money, while there's no mention of in-game ordering or other advanced advergaming implementation, I'm still quite interested to see where this goes. The mobile version already won Best Wireless Game at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, and the game's voice talent lineup alone is enough to make the scene sit up and take notice: Sean "Diddy" Combs, George Hamilton, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam West, Andy Dick, RZA, Charlie Murphy, and Talib Kweli. Wow.

The Next Big Thing: Lifestyle Gaming?

Last week Dr. Jenkins' Creative Industries class was visited by Jon Cropper, a friend of the C3 and the man in charge of marketing Sean "Diddy" Coombs' media empire. In his lecture, Jon presented two huge photomontages evoking the 'mood' of a brand, including locations, objects and people that all fit this brand style. Looking at them, it was almost impossible not to start imagining connections between the images and quickly forming some type of brand narrative.

C3's research keeps returning over and over again to the use of storytelling as a marketing and entertainment device. We grapple with the functions that these stories serve in ads, the function that product placement for ads serve in stories, and how video gaming is developing as a narrative form. Aristotle argued that drama was all about the plot – characters are nice to have, but you can still have a story with a rousing plot and no characters. Video games, on the other hand, seem to be primarily about the setting, granting the player agency to run around in an authored world.

So why not take this one step further and let gamers slip into the world that these brands attempt to personify in their advertisements? We have racks and racks of lifestyle magazines, so why not lifestyle gaming?

Imagine a MMORPG for the Vanity Fair set that lets you be the heir or heiress to some massive business empire, providing you with nearly inexhaustible resources. In the game, you can then assemble the materialistic life of your dreams, obtaining houses and vacation homes and planes and cars or whatever, taking this life out for a spin. You can connect with your friends online and show off the newest toys that you've found, with the option of actually purchasing one in real life with real money in-game. It would be similar to a James Bond game, but playing up the shaken-not-stirred aspect instead of the Walther PPK. How would such a project succeed or fail?

On the one hand, there's something intensely sexy about the concept of a Ralph Lauren videogame, distributed via free DVD-ROM in every issue of Vanity Fair, or even an Eddie Bauer or Timberland game. Pop in the game, and you're suddenly running around a lodge in Crested Butte wearing the latest fashions, sipping Godiva cocoa, cuddling with ski bunnies and taking your Land Rover out for a spin. On the other, there's the simple solve-all-my-problems psychology trap of big ticket purchases. People tend to buy brands because they believe that their lives will radically change when they obtain that $500 Gucci bag, but their friends stay the same, their waistline stays the same, their house stays the same... Very few big-ticket purchases would offer the same kind of massive life overhaul that such a game could offer – unless each game also offered a Buy This Life button that instantly sucked $20M out of your credit account, filed divorce papers, sold your house, and booked you plane tickets.

Regardless, I think there is some interesting – and potentially lucrative – territory to be mined here. What do you think?

Nielsen to measure Massive ads

Further proof that Nielsen's report is set to increase efforts in the VG advertising space:

Nielsen will begin measuring Massive ads.

Nielsen Entertainment and Massive Inc. announced a partnership Wednesday under which Nielsen Interactive Entertainment will provide third-party accountability and measurement for in-game advertising on the Massive Network...

Massive operates the Massive Video Game Advertising Network, a system that enables advertisers to fine-tune customizable placement according to consumer demography, game genre, behavioral data, daypart and other factors, and all aspects of the campaign can be changed across the network instantly as well as being accurately trackable (HR 10/18).

(Via Inside Video Games.)

December 9, 2005

Zen and the Art of Video Game Product Placement

Hot on the heels of the recent reports about the efficacy of in-game advertising, Massive Inc. has announced that they will start integrating "dynamic 10-second ads" into video games in more fluid and logical contexts:

Longano said a traditional 30-second spot would interrupt game play too much, but he is optimistic that gamers readily will watch the shorter commercials. "Advertising makes the gaming experience more realistic ... people accept it and actually like it" as long as it doesn't interfere or distract too much from the game itself, he said.

He explained that players would get to see the short animated videos in "natural" situations, such as when moving their game characters by a TV set that is turned on.

Massive will start using the spots in about two weeks and will charge higher rates than for its static ad displays within games, according to Longano.

Will you look at that? The industry can learn!

December 6, 2005

Music, Johnny Cash, WWE, and The Shield

Music has been the talk of the hour in some entertainment circles. For instance, people like Ben Wright are debating the musical choices that FX has been making to promote The Shield.

One spot uses Johnny Cash's "Hurt," which has helped promote the various Cash albums out right now, the film Walk the Line, and The Shield.

Another spot uses rap song "Bad, Bad Man" from WWE Heavyweight Champion John Cena's rap album.

For wrestling, music and entertainment has been a long-term cross-promotional vehicle, as a different band's song is the "official theme" of each month's PPV. For instance, for the WWE show that just happened a couple of weeks ago, "WWE Survivor Series 2005", POD's single "Lights Out" was the official music.

What's different here is that WWE original music is being used to promote other television series? What does this mean in terms of cross-promotion? What might be the advantage here for both WWE and The Shield? I'm not sure, but does anyone else have any thoughts?

Moon Pies, RCs, and iPods

Product placement often seems to be most easily integrated into comedy, and the WWE often finds a way to put product placement in its programming very blatantly but in a way that makes fans laugh instead of gag.

On last night's RAW, a trial was held to determine whether RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff would get to keep his job or would have to be fired.

WWE Owner Vince McMahon acted as judge and was biased against Bischoff, his long-time enemy. For instance, when one witness for Bischoff finished talking, McMahon admitted he hadn't heard any of it.

Instead, he revealed he'd been listening to his new iPod, which he showed to the audience, and then said that Ashlee Simpson music really sucks.

Later, "prosecutor" Mick Foley opened his old-school Batman lunchbox during a recess and pulled out an RC Cola and a Moon Pie, an homage to the stereotype of the south but embraced by the fan favorite in a way that got a chuckle out of the fans.

When product placement ends up being part of the most entertaining parts of a show, you know a company has found a potential landmine in profit while still retaining a show's integrity for its loyal fan base.

Tyson Chicken--An Example of the Future??

Since I study the soap opera industry regularly, I thought I would post something about the partnership between Tyson Foods and As the World Turns, the soap that I "study" (am an avid fan of).

Barbara Ryan, who has been a regular character on the show played by Colleen Zenk Pinter since 1978, is one of the most recognizable stars on the show. In the past couple of years, her character--who has long been the neurotic head designer of fashion company BRO (Barbara Ryan Originals)--has gone of the deep end and has become a soap villain of sorts.

Tyson, a regular advertiser on the CBS daytime lineup, somehow borkered a deal with the producers of ATWT and shot the following commercial:

Barbara walks into the kitchen of her aunt and uncle's home (Bob and Kim Hughes, the core family of the show), on her cell phone and says the following:

"What did I do today? Well, I took the kids to school, foiled a kidnapping attempt, took my son to his psychiatrist's, picked up the drycleaning, divorced my eighth husband, went to lunch and played bridge, recovered from the explosion, went to the grocery store, and sabotaged a fashion show. You?"

At the bottom of the screen, Tyson's logo appears, along with its new catch-phrase "Powered by Tyson." These were a great departure from the more conventional "families powered by Tyson" commercials, but the fans of As the World Turns began talking about the commercial regularly.

Later, Tyson featured Barbara Ryan's character in a second commercial with similar results, as she walks into the same kitchen and says:

"What have I been up to lately? Well, I flew out of a second-story courtroom window, confessed to a murder that I didn't commit, foiled an attempt to brainwash my son, sent my enemies to a Swiss spa and aged them 40 years, and crashed my car into a mental institution? And you?" Again with the Tyson information appearing.

As opposed to blatant product placement within the show, the fans have accepted this spot as brilliant and regularly bring it up on message boards, etc. I think this is one way that producers could market their products along with entertainment in intriguing ways. The spot cost nil to produce, as it was filmed on the show's set with one of their regular actors, and yet it created a much stronger link between the fans of the show--As the World Turns--and the product. Now, Tyson seems to be a "hip" product in-line with what soap opera is really like, rather than a frozen food and chicken company trying to hock its products at the stereotypical housewife.

November 18, 2005

Writers Guild Launches Subservient Donald

Writers Guild of America that pushes for limits on product placement has launched a Subservient Donald website as part of a larger campaign. The Donald dances, shows off pantyhose he's wearing, and sells paper towels.

November 16, 2005

Strained Partnerships: "Medium" & "Geisha"

The Hollywood Reporter suggests that a recent promotional deal between NBC and Sony Pictures predicts the future of product placement.

Since I don't know anyone who watches NBC's Medium, I hadn't noticed that the November 14th episode featured a plot point revolving around Sony's upcoming theatrical release Memoirs of a Geisha:

"In the episode, Arquette's character, Allison, finally got a much-needed night on the town with her husband, and the two decided to attend a special advance screening of "Geisha." When they arrived at the theater, not only was the film's title bannered on the marquee, but the couple also ran into two friends who had just seen the movie and loved it. And just to reinforce the film's title, throughout the episode Allison's daughter Bridgette kept asking for the definition of a geisha."

The logic behind the deal, which will surprise absolutely no one, stands in stark contrast to the multi-network press conference earlier today insisting that DVRs and TiVos are not eroding commercial audiences. Apparently Geoff Ammer, Sony's President of Worldwide marketing, disagrees.

(Credit to SciFiWire for the heads-up.)

October 24, 2005

Black and Decker

At "The Next Big Idea" conference last week at New York City that I attended with Henry and Ivan, one company executive who specialized in product placement discussed a new automatic tape measure from Black and Decker that was sent to all of the sitcom producers for this season and was encouraged to have it used during products.

According to the product placement executive, the product has already appeared in two shows and will actually play a role in a storyline in a third.

I was just wondering how aware the class was of these attempts at product placement and the prevalence that these agencies have. Based on the models I've seen through Steven Johnson's < a href="">Everything Bad Is Good for You, and J.D. Lasica's Darknet, etc., the traditional commercial may be on its way out and product placement here to stay. Do these firms stand to gain an early great footing in what may be the major emerging market of the future in advertising?

October 14, 2005

Public Service Announcements as Product Placement?

I recently saw an interesting trend while watching As the World Turns, the CBS daytime serial drama.

One of the longtime characters on the show, Lucinda Walsh, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the show has frequently covered the real risks and medical procedures associated with the disease, followed by ending the show with a public service announcement.

In another recent case, a character who smoked and worked two jobs while pregnant followed several episodes with an ending PSA urging viewers to visit a Web site which detail the dangers of not taking care of one's self while pregnant.

This past week, the writers of ATWT went a step further in working a PSA directly into the storyline.

Dr. Bob Hughes was met at the hospital by his wife, Kim Hughes, who runs one of the major television stations in fictional Oakdale. She explained to Bob that she was had stopped by the hospital because she wanted to work on a PSA announcement for her station and needed a medical expert for the spot, clearly indicating her husband. She then went on to tell Bob that she was concerned about the continued epidemic of AIDS in Africa and had some startling statistics, which she read off to him.

Bob replied by saying that the numbers startled him and that, for the price of a cup of coffee, most Americans could probably make a real effort into testing and prevention education for these countries.

Kim said, "Now, if only I could have you come down to our station and say that on television. That's exactly what our viewers need to hear."

The self-reflexivity of the scene made me think that this might be more effective than just an end-show PSA announcement. Viewers wouldn't be able to as easily fast-foward through it, yet it was still worked effectively into the characters and their various stories.

While PSAs are different in advertisements in their purpose, they both still face continued danger of not being seen by consumers. So, similar to product placement in the fictional worlds, these embedded PSAs may start to take the place of the traditional end-show PSA announcements.

Add to Technorati Favorites