Let’s face it. TV shows exist to advertise products. The way they advertise may be changing as DVRs and the internet change the way people watch TV, but it’s still the main source of funding for networks. Some advertisers have attempted to go back to the single-sponsor programming of the past, but more of them have started blatantly inserting their products into a show’s content.
Last night’s episode of Being Erica (SoapNet, Wednesdays at 11pm) fell victim to a drive-by product placement attack. Erica was talking on the phone with her new business partner/old boss Julianne and their exchange went something like this (I am paraphrasing):
Erica: What are you doing?
Julianne: I’m on my way to pick up the new car that I bought before I got laid off. It’s a FORD FIESTA and it comes in magenta. Isn’t that neat?
Erica: I heard that FORD FIESTA’s are awesome!
Then a couple of scenes later, Erica and Julianne were in her magenta FORD FIESTA and it turns out, it’s a really cute car and the magenta is, in fact, really neat. But I was already so annoyed that they put the product placement in the dialogue that I was turned off to the product they were advertising.
I don’t mind subtle product placement. Go ahead, have Julianne have a brand new car and feature it’s name prominently – IN THE BACKGROUND. Just don’t insert infomercial-like dialogue into the show. It takes away the creative integrity and makes the producers look desperate. One instance of subtle product placement that worked well, at least for me, was on Veronica Mars. Logan (the bad boy) drove a bright yellow Nissan Xterra and he made that truck look so cool. Because the color made the truck stand out and because I loved the character, I actually looked into what kind of car it was and considered buying one (only for a split second. I’m not really a truck girl). But the product placement worked in reverse too. Whenever I saw a bright yellow Xterra on the street, it made me think of Veronica Mars (which didn’t really need any more of my good will, I loved it so much) so the product placement wasn’t just advertising the truck, it became an advertisement for the show as well. I don’t think people really mind the close-up on the car’s make and model. It’s when the characters start extolling its virtues in conversation that it becomes obnoxious.
This post was not brought to you by any advertisers.