Product Placement Gone Mad
Today, we can't seem to get away from the topic of product placement. We received a link from Terry Heaton of Donata Communications who, last night, saw an episode of the USA alien abduction show, The 4400, in which Budweiser had a blatant placement Heaton thought went over the edge of credibility.
On his blog, he describes the scene, writing, "Following the funeral of one of their Korean War buddies, a group of guys head to a local pub to lift a few and remember the fellow. A story is told where one of the guys 'returned with three cases of Budweiser,' whereupon one of the guys lifts a can. The camera takes a tight shot. The guy says, 'Look at this can. It's just like it was back then.' Cut to a wide shot that shows the table is full of Budweiser cans."
While Heaton is one man, others certainly reacted as he did. "The writers of this show must have had a fit over writing this. Here's an entire scene in a drama that was created to sell Budweiser beer. Frankly, it ruined the show for me. An essential part of good drama is to draw the viewer into the story. That'll never happen again for me with this program."
If product placement generates this sort of reaction, it's not the sort of marketing tactic that'll stick around for long.
Topic: Product Placement
Even though I work in advertising, I would have flipped the channel if I'd seen that 4400 Bud ad. My feeling would have been, "Thanks for wasting my time with that blatant ad that has nothing to do with the story."
I saw an episode of Monk the other day that advertised a Chrysler Crossfire a little more subtly. The dead body was near the car and one of the officers says, "Boy is this a beautiful car. I have to get myself one of these."
It was a throw away line that had nothing to do with anything in the story. But at least it wasn't as bad as the Bud thing.
Hmm... Then how do y'all feel about the following two dialogue exchanges from 1986's killer movie, Blue Velvet?
Frank Booth: What kind of beer you drink, neighbor?
Jeffrey Beaumont: Heineken
Frank Booth: Heineken? F*ck that sh*t! Pabst Blue Ribbon!
Jeffrey Beaumont: Man I like Heineken! You like Heineken?
Sandy Williams: Uh- Well, I've never really had a Heineken before.
Jeffrey Beaumont: You never had a Heineken before?
Sandy Williams: My dad drinks Bud.
Jeffrey Beaumont: King of beers.
The scenes you reference from Blue Velvet at least had something to do with the plot and the characters. Were those even paid product placements? I think that those dialougues were part of differentiating Jeffrey Beaumont from the rest of the characters in his home town. Part of the "Jeffrey's changed" theme.
First of all, let me say that I'm a consumer - not an advertiser. I'm not in any way, shape or form involved in your field of work. (I just really like reading your blog.) That being said, I really don't see what all the bruhaha is over this thing you call "product placement". I understand that these manufacturers pay the producers to use their products in their movies and shows. So what? To me, this enhances the "believability" of the show. They seem more like "real people" doing "ordinary things" in their "daily life". Just like me and everyone else I know. To me it's more disconcerting to see someone turn the product around so that you can't see the label (like I don't know that's Heinz 57 they're using as an ingredient in their burger). While that 4400 spot did sound like a bit of overkill for Bud, I'll bet my beer drinking friends didn't think twice about it. I doubt if my Busch drinking friends didn't think "Budweiser! The hell with this show!" and turn it off. Frankly, I hope the manufacturers aren't paying the producers too much for them using their products. I really don't think product placement will entice anyone to run out and buy their product because their favorite TV character drinks Bud instead of Busch. Or Pepsi instead of Coke. Or drives a Ford instead of a Chevy. Or... never mind... you get my drift. In short (!), product placement just isn't all that in the eyes of the consumer. IMHO.
I saw the Monk thing, and to tell you the truth, I didn't even think of it in terms of product placement. It's a nice looking car. If it'd been an Audi TT, or a Porsche 911, or any other similarly ostentatious automobile, it would have fit into the scene. It happened to be a CrossFire...and in my house, we paused the TiVo and talked about it for a second, because it is a good looking car.
The Bud thing in The 4400 sounds like it might have all been going fine until the TIGHT SHOT. I mean, there is a realistic way to tell a story that involves a character forming a loyalty to a product. I drink MGD because of a positive event in my life that I associte with it. It's not unreasonable...until you change the way you tell the story. Advertisers, stop screwing with the writers!
If within the story line of a program, product placement appears as part of the story, "like car jackers taking only Fords" in a story like 'Gone in 60 seconds' or something similar, it works, but I saw that 4400 show and I agree, that scene had nothing to do with the story. Further more, it really looked like an ad that was plugged into the show. It sucked, Advertisers should take note, the consumer/viewer will get wise to blatant placement, and TiVo through that too.
Budweiser always goes overkill.
They drove the word "wassup" right out of the vernacular with blatant over-usage, they actually featured their beer in a commercial with horse flatulence and most of their ads are based on the distorted lack of reason possessed by alcoholics (turning to beer instead of women and sex, or jumping out of a plane for a mere six-pack). And let's not forget Spuds MacKenzie, nor the eight years they've been running "real men of genius" in to the ground.
Now is no time to expect the brand to behave realistically. Like its target consumers, the brand is loud, obnoxious and always over-doing it.
That said, product placement is a lot like Muzak: once you notice it, it's not working anymore. This Bud 4400 incident is just one good example of how not to do it.
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