Monday, April 5, 2010
It was supposed to be a TV show, I thought, but watching Undercover Boss, The Apprentice et al. was more like product placement on steroids. Gone are the days of products held in such a way by the actor as to obscure it from camera view. WELCOME TO BRANDVERTAINMENT 2010.*
Ironic that COPS was The Man when it came to inventing the reality programming genre, but failed when it came to any attempt at brand integration. All they had to do was hold the shot a little longer and have someone go “Look, they’re holding up a 7-Eleven®!”
It’s not just Hollywood either. The recent crop of reality shows on both cable and network feature products and logos almost non-stop. And if by chance someone *isn’t* mentioning a brand, then the commercials that run between segments do.
What I really like though is the number of agencies that get involved with brands to pull this off, almost as if they were building the time machine from Contact. It’s a new spin on product placement is all, and it’s not that hard. One part writer and producer to develop some drama plus one part brand = done.
The idea for a kitchen tool brand to appear on a segment about... cooking, well, that doesn’t take four agencies to come up with, does it? The majority of what I see is weak product placement at best, with few brands doing something unique with the show formats they’re a part of. Rather, they seem to settle for being associated with a hit show in general. (Who wouldn’t.)
Despite attempts to reveal the human side of companies, you can’t tell me that the different categories of brands which have appeared on Undercover Boss stood out in any way in terms of the various products they made or services they offered.
I don’t deny the change that’s occurred when it comes to what constitutes product placement or sponsorship now, especially compared to craptastic live reads of ads on talk shows past. Even SNL wrote the book on hosts promoting their latest movie.
It just feels like we’re overrun now. When it misses, it happens with products that likely have no relevance to your life. All PR cares about though is that it got its client’s name mentioned in a show last night.
Like... a recent episode of Clean House where they gave a newly rubbish-ridden couple a year’s worth of cable from... Comcast. (Pause while everyone applauded Comcast. For real.)
I don’t blame all of this on brands however. Agencies and production companies trying to package any kind of drama with any kind of sponsor they can get their hands on? Guilty. Thank TiVo, thank changing viewer habits all you want, thank whatever.
Brands are trying to get in front of you any chance they can because they’re being shut out in other areas, and they’re turning to anyone who can help.
I just wish I could watch a scene with someone on a phone without the camera holding on a Cisco logo for :10 seconds.
*This quality buzzword brought to you by...
Posted 2:09 PM