Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Product Placement: Nothing is Coincidence!

Have you ever noticed that Carrie from Sex and the City always dreamily writes her next journalist masterpiece from an Apple laptop?

Why Jack Bauer ALWAYS seem to leap into a Ford to save the world?

Does Dr. McDreamy ever drink anything besides Diet Coke?
Waaaaiiiitttt…does Shaq REALLY only have Muscle Milk and Vitamin Water in his fridge like we saw on Cribs?

As you may have guessed – these instances are no coincidence. They are perfect examples of a PR and marketing/advertising tool called product placement. Product placement describes a method in which branded goods or services (Apple laptops, Vitamin water, Gucci handbags) are placed in the public eye, generally in TV shows or motion pictures and recently also computer and video games, as a result of an economic exchange. Product placement occurs when the specific brand’s product or logo appears in a shot, or is mentioned by a character. The tricky thing, and effective thing, about product placement is that this process is obviously done without disclosure and is made (or attempted to made) to seem like a natural part of the scene or setting.

Basically, some big shot at Chanel calls up another big shot producer of Cashmere Mafia and says “We will pay you x amount to have Caitlin say ‘I LOVE my Chanel bag, you have to get one.” Then the terms would be negotiated, such as how many times the product would have to be mentioned or flashed on the screen in exchange for however much money is deemed appropriate.

When products are incorporated into the actual plot of a motion picture or a TV show, it is called brand integration. You better believe that costs the big bucks. For example, during one episode of Sex and the City, one of the main girls worked on an ad campaign for Absolut Vodka.

Earlier in this blog, I described how a comm professor of mine once likened the effects of the media on the average person to a fish in water: the images slide over to us and sink into us, without us really noticing. Product placement is a huge example of this – try watching your favorite TV show or movie, and see how many times you notice product placement.

Nothing is a coincidence!

Everything is paid for. Every beer your favorite bro orders, every cute top your favorite heroine buys, the speedy car your action hero chooses are all predetermined. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton CONSTANTLY criticizes Lindsey Lohan for suspiciously always happening to carry around Activa, a stop-smoking aid. (Yep, also not a coincidence.)
Fellow Blogger Politiosauras Rex even pointed out the public likening of 2008 Presidential Candidate Barack Obama to a Mac computer in an article in the NY Times, showing perhaps an innocent beneficiary in Apple.

Product placement has found controversy over the years, especially with activist group Commercial Alert, whose motto is “Protecting communities from commercialism.” (Yeah, right.) Commercial Alert released a press release stating that they believe product placement is an “affront to basic honesty” because they are inherently deceptive to the average American. Commercial Alert has placed special emphasis on protecting children’s shows such as Hannah Montana and Mackenzie Blue, because they strongly advocate that children are more suseptible to the effects of product placement.

Really though?

Fighting product placement is a lost cause. Not only is it an absolute PR and marketing necessity in order to develop an established brand, it is also a big moneymaker for both parties involved. I really don’t see Jack Daniels taking the stance that they will stop being the drink of choice for the AMC show “Mad Men” because it “isn’t fair” to some ambiguous group of Americans.

What do you think?

Does product placement make you disgusted with the “Americanism” that flows through our media?

Or does it not bother you when you go to the grocery store that you probably chose Corona over Budwieser because you saw the characters on Heroes drinking it?

It’s alllll One. Big. Game.


B.Kuz said...

I really enjoyed this article. I like how you notice very small details that others would simply ignore. Love your topics

privilegeindifference said...

With regard to your questions at the end...

I find it so weird that almost every image we are presented with is, half the time (at least, it seems), deliberately paid for by some company to be there...especially when we have absolutely no idea that it is happening!

It is pretty frightening.