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Advertising The Almighty Buck

Digital Tech and the Re-Birth of Product Placement 228

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the making-the-world-worse dept.
pbahra writes "When you think of product placement on television you tend to think of cumbersome 1950s examples where the actor would cheesily turn to camera and hold up, say, a bar of soap—where do you think the sobriquet soap opera came from—to deliver his line. Perhaps to save all of us the artistic murder, the practice was prohibited in Europe, but recently the prohibition has been relaxed and a U.K. start up is offering digital producers the chance to inject products realistically in post production with full directorial control. The problem with existing physical product placement is that there are no clear business plans, and the process is incredibly slow. In Europe, legal constraints prohibit directors from re-writing scripts to include products, so any placement has to be done at the creative stage."
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Digital Tech and the Re-Birth of Product Placement

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  • We've had this in the U.S. for ages, and the only side-effect that I've noticed is that I can't stop thinking about delicious, delicious fast food products. I recommend that you just relax and let the placements do their work. If you try to fight it, it'll just give you a really nasty headache. Then you'll have to take Tylenol-brand pain reliever, washed down with a refreshing Coca-Cola.

    • They're going to far, though. Even my 6 year old is starting to see through it. His question?

      "Why would they put Captain America on a can of Canada Dry?"

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      I'm reading your post, and I agree, comfortable at work because I'm wearing 100% cotton Haynes under my clothes, The Lady Prefers Haynes(TM) Just wait till we get our Haynes on You(TM)
      • That's a lot of comfy ruby, and I'm sure you'd like to keep those loved items you enjoy every day as comfy as the first Sunshine Fabric Conditioner day you bought them.
        I'm good at this.
  • say how cool something is and the cult will buy it

  • Soap Opera (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:06PM (#37108050)

    I think he needs to do a little more research on the origin of "soap opera".
    might I suggest a connection to laundry soap?

  • Isn't bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:06PM (#37108058)
    Product placement isn't bad when it works with the story. For example, a horror movie isn't ruined because at a party they have a box of Pizza Hut pizza and are playing on a PS3. On the other hand, bad product placement can ruin character development, for example, showing what is supposed to be a poor family having a top-of-the line Mac in their kitchen.
    • by Binestar (28861)
      Unless the main character is a petty thief.
      • by idontgno (624372)

        Wait, what are you trying to insinuate about Macintosh users? Only petty thieves use Macintoshes? Or only petty people use Macs?

        Either way... woo, boy howdy, are you in for a royal flaming.

    • by davidwr (791652)

      bad product placement can ruin character development, for example, showing what is supposed to be a poor family having a top-of-the line Mac in their kitchen.

      Maybe that's why they are poor, they blew all their money on a top-of-the-line computer.

      Or maybe it's a movie about Enron and they bought the computer the day before the company collapsed.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      The most notorious example had to be the Mac-compatible alien technology in Independence Day. Thank god the aliens didn't go with Intel PC's, or we would've been fucked.

      • Well at that point Goldblum and Smith could just have inserted a faulty SATA driver and they're computers would have kept BSODing.

      • The aliens will have Intel machines in Independence Day 2. Luckily, Jeff Goldblum will have a new MacBook Air, so he'll still be able to save us.
      • by Hatta (162192)

        Was that paid for by Apple? Or did the ID producers simply want to piggyback on Apples high tech image?

        • My theory is, is that since so many Apple products are used in post-production and graphic design, that the writers/filmmakers just use what they know. Look at how many sitcoms and movies use thinly-veiled Apple tech (one of the shows my kids watch make them "Pear" devices...PearPhone, PearPod, etc).

        • Apple has a whole branch of their marketing department dedicated to encouraging and supplying free Apple gear to production companies. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I've noticed that MacBooks always have the distinctive Apple logo, but everything else has some generic symbol or simply a blank spot on the lid where the logo used to be. I don't think I've ever seen a MacBook with its logo removed or covered.

    • > Product placement isn't bad when it works with the story
      Unless, of course, you think subliminal advertising is a bad thing.

      • by gnick (1211984)

        Unless, of course, you think subliminal advertising is a bad thing.

        Subliminal? Unless you're completely tuned out or blind and listening to the movies rather than actually viewing the picture, product placement is most obviously liminal. In-your-face style liminal. Unmistakably liminal. Superliminal.

        This message brought to you by the Dr Pepper organization to add the word "liminal" to the ever-evolving Levi's brand English language.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I don't get why people care so much about this. If a film or TV show is supposed to be realistic, depicting people in the same world as the viewers, doesn't it make sense for real products to be shown? I actually DISLIKE when characters go to, say, a Burger Prince and order a Thumper. It feels fake, because we know if the characters were actually real, they'd be going to Burger King. Like it or not, that sort of thing is part of our world, and trying to pretend otherwise takes me out of the experience.

        A goo

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Best product placement I've ever seen was in Natural Born Killers. From what I've read Coca-Cola sacked most of their product placement team in LA afterwards.

      • Best product placement I've ever seen was in Natural Born Killers. From what I've read Coca-Cola sacked most of their product placement team in LA afterwards.

        Best Coca-Cola product placement ever was during the Clarance Thomas senate confirmation.

    • Re:Isn't bad... (Score:5, Informative)

      by grimmjeeper (2301232) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:22PM (#37108220)

      Natural placement of branded items isn't always a bad thing. It can make the story that much more believable. I find that the products with labels that are deliberately nothing like anything in the real world can actually be distracting. With the dialog, it's far more natural for an actor to ask for a Coke or Pepsi than to say "I'd like a cola."

      But the best product placement in a movie had to be "Wayne's World". They did an entire scene about how they didn't want to sell out to advertisers. Of course, the scene was shot with as many product placements as possible while they were talking about selling out to advertisers. They even mimicked the commercials of some of the products. Garth dressed head to toe in Reebok gear saying "It's like people only do these things because they can get paid. And that's just really sad." had to be the funniest part of that scene.

      • by plover (150551) *

        I don't know, I always wanted to try a can of "BEER" brand beer, like they drank on the Rockford files. The label was fairly consistent with real labels, kind of a take-off midway between Budweiser and Miller. It wasn't plain white or generic, it looked like a product, just not one I was familiar with.

        • by rthille (8526)

          I still think the best product placements were in Repo Man.

          I've always wanted to drink a "drink", but I'm not sure about the "food", though I bet his mom was right and it would be better in a bowl...

          • by 1729 (581437)

            I still think the best product placements were in Repo Man.

            I've always wanted to drink a "drink", but I'm not sure about the "food", though I bet his mom was right and it would be better in a bowl...

            The blue-label generics in Repo Man were based on real packaging (available in the 80s from Ralph's grocery stores in So. California, at least). My dad used to drink blue-label beer like the ones on the bottom left in this picture:

            http://thefoxisblack.com/blogimages//generic-beer-cans-mary-and-matt.jpg [thefoxisblack.com]

        • The Wal-Mart in my town sells "Cola." No brand name. It's cheaper than (and tastes worse than) their store brand "Sam's Cola." I've bought it a couple times for parties where most of the people are going to be too high or drunk to notice that they're drinking $0.50 2 liters of caffeinated sugar water with brown food coloring.

      • by Inda (580031)
        The BBC are terrible at hiding labels. The rules say that can't advertise anything, expect their magazines, their DVDs, their books, their... So they can;t show anything.

        We know it's a bottle of Johnson and Johnson washing up liquid. Why bother? Sigh.
      • by jadin (65295)

        One of my favorites was in the U.S. version of "The Office" when Andy is trying to remember the end of a candy bar jingle.

        Give me a break, give me a break,
        Break me off a piece of that... fancy feast!

        He spends the entire episode unable to remember how it actually goes. And of course nearly every viewer knows the jingle by heart, so every time he sings it, they are remembering the product name for him in their head.

        Pretty impressive to do that many product placements in a single episode without ever showing o

      • Lets you sell the product placement after you're done filming!

        And I don't think I've ever heard anyone order a "Pepsi" in person. I've seen it on film a couple of times - Marty McFly trying to order a "Pepsi Free", and somebody telling Chase and Ackroyd "Why don't you boys have yourself a Pepsi" in Spies Like Us.

        • The reason you don't hear Pepsi very often is because The Coca-Cola company invests a lot of advertising dollars in movie and TV production.

      • by HalAtWork (926717) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @04:00PM (#37111044)
        I kind of find it interesting to see when a show/movie comes up with its own brands, it can make the world seem much more realized. They have products that suit their universe. For example, in "The Simpsons", they have many Krusty branded items, or Duff or Laramie, etc. Or in "Star Wars", I would never want to see a Coke or Doritos, or whatever, that's a different universe! Product placements would usually go to the highest bidder, would something like that belong in a show like Roseanne where the family can't typically afford anything but generic/store brands?

        Also, don't you find it more entertaining when the writers come up with parodies of actual products, or create brands that only exist in their world? Usually they are comical, satirical, or just creative. I find that more interesting that repeats of the crap that is offensively blasted at you all day. I have a negative feeling associated with seeing real-world brands in TV shows for that reason, and find it very refreshing when I don't notice real-world brands out of the corner of my eye every time I am watching a show or movie. They're distracting no matter how much they try to make them blend in with the scene.
    • Product placement isn't bad when it works with the story. For example, a horror movie isn't ruined because at a party they have a box of Pizza Hut pizza and are playing on a PS3.

      Done right, that actually adds to the story... It's easier to relate to characters eating Pizza Hut (or Dominos, or some other national chain) because we've seen the stores, we've probably eaten the food, we recognize the packaging, and we can relate to the entire situation of having a party and ordering pizza delivery.

      It doesn't work so well if you go out of your way to make something generic, and avoid branding. The pizza example isn't such a good one since there are plenty of local pizza shops with rat

    • by Syberz (1170343)

      Agreed, I also hate when it's too obvious and detracts from the flow.

      The first example that springs to mind was in Transformers (1st one) when the junior analyst chick at the CIA (or NSA or whatever) copies "the unknown encrypted signal" onto a Panasonic SD card... the close up shot of her hand pulling the card out by holding it awkwardly in order not to hide the logo and the 1 second pause so that we can read it, really didn't fit in the flow of the scene.

      Another example of blatant product placement is in

      • by Ksevio (865461)

        Not only was Bones talking about her Prius, but the whole scene seems to be created around that product placement. There were several episodes in a row that did this so even if you missed the first time, it became painfully obvious the next few times.

        It seems Toyota requires the actors to talk about the car for some amount of time in their product placement, the same thing happens in Warehouse 13 where a main character says something like "I see you have the latest Prius" and starts naming off all the fea

    • by formfeed (703859)

      On the other hand, bad product placement can ruin character development, for example, showing what is supposed to be a poor family having a top-of-the line Mac in their kitchen.

      Yep. That one ruined the Grapes of Wrath for me.

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      On the other hand, bad product placement can ruin character development, for example, showing what is supposed to be a poor family having a top-of-the line Mac in their kitchen.

      I'm guessing you're either not from the south, visited the south, or been through poor neighborhoods. I can't tell you how many times I've been through poor neighborhoods, which I consider to be little more than a collection of shanties, whereby a one or two year old Cadillac is parked out front.

      The fact is, a lot of people are poor specifically because they spend their money so incredibly dumbly. No, that's not all poor and likely far from a majority, but that's reality. Factually, a lot of poor people are

  • ... any placement has to be done at the creative stage

    Does this mean Citizen Kane and the sled manufacturer are OK or not OK?

    ET and his Texas Instruments Speak and Spell are OK or not OK?

    Jurassic Park and the kid who knows unix because it has a 3-d file browser are OK or not OK?

  • by danlip (737336) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:11PM (#37108100)

    According to wikipedia: "The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers ... as sponsors and producers." So it has nothing to do with product placement and predates TV.

  • Paul Newman put a clause in his will that prohibits any "virtual performance or reanimation of any performance by me by the use of any technique, technology or medium now in existence or which may be known or created in the future anywhere in the universe."

    So no Paul Newman dancing with a vacuum cleaner a la Fred Astaire.

    Which is a good thing.

    • That is all well and good, but his copyright will expire and it will enter the public domain at which point his desires about restricting this will become unenforceable.

      • by Splab (574204)

        Baring Charles Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, I guarantee you young people today do not know any of the actors of early(ish) years of movies.

        I doubt anyone in 70 odd years will know who Paul Newmann was, baring a few boffs.

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          I doubt anyone in 70 odd years will know who Paul Newmann was, baring a few boffs.

          That might have been a rather poor choice [wikipedia.org] when it comes to illustrating the particular point you were trying to make.

          • Baring Marilyn Monroe was fine, but Charlie Chaplin? Paul Newman impressed a few ladies when he was young, but Charlie just wasn't the looker.

  • Product placement happens in a lot of movies and you generally don't notice it. It just means instead of a product being generic or having the label hidden, it'll have a brand on it. Not only is it not offensive, but it can make things seem more real. An example of it being well done is Dell product placement in V for Vendetta. All that they did was not cover the logos on the computers and monitors. They are actual Dell systems used, mostly by the police, and you can see that in the background. They don't c

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:30PM (#37108358) Homepage

    Soap operas were not called that because of clumsy product placement. Yes, they were sponsored by soap companies and the content of the shows chased the housewife demographic who purchased the same. However most of them took their dramatic content far too seriously to sully themselves with the kind of idiotic product placement you describe. There were actually producers who had taste back then - just like there are those who have taste today - who would have fought to keep this kind of thing from happening.

    And, in fact, if you actually look at these shows, I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to find an example of what you described. An announcer/narrator transitioning from the drama to the ad with "Now a word from our sponsors..."? Yes. A cast member in the heat of a pot-boiling dramatic scene saying something like "I wish I could wash these troubles away with the lemony-fresh scent of Palmolive Soap!" while holding up a bottle? Not so much.

    You denigrate what, at the time, was as serious and professional an artistic undertaking as what goes on in dramatic TV now.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      You denigrate what, at the time, was as serious and professional an artistic undertaking as what goes on in dramatic TV now.

      Rather than making soap operas look good, that statement reflects poorly on modern television.

  • Inevitable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fussy_radical (1867676) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:36PM (#37108426)

    Now that more and more of us are finding ways to cut out the commercials, they have to be hidden in the content.
    As others have said, I don't mind if they are done "right" (and there is a fine line of course). My main concern is that this will go the same way cable TV did.
     
    First, they rationalize that they need this because there are fewer and fewer eyeballs hitting the commercials.
    Next, they will find a way to enforce the 10 minutes of commercials per 1/2 hour of programming.
    ???
    Finally, PROFIT!
     
    We'll finally achieve life as depicted in the Demolition Man (was that parody or just really good product placement?)

  • tech is just adding power to existing creative tools. auteurs can still produce ad-free art if they wish, and take the risk inherent in getting people to pay for it. more commercial products can customize the product for the watcher, and thus offer content at lower prices.

    consumers, for their part, can be as passive as they want, or drive development of software that preprocesses content to remove what they object to (turn all those coke cans to pepsi or guiness).

    where's the problem? yes, it means that w

  • Entertainment Weekly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThunderCow (568538) <<patrwu> <at> <optonline.net>> on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:43PM (#37108514) Homepage Journal

    Entertainment Weekly had an article about a month ago concerning this practice in syndicated episodes of television shows.

    http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/07/07/how-i-met-your-mother-reruns-bad-teacher-zookeeper/ [ew.com]

    From the article: If you’ve watched syndicated reruns of sitcom How I Met Your Mother lately, you might have been startled to see advertisements for very current movies such as Bad Teacher and Zookeeper in episodes that originally aired as early as 2006, long before those flicks were made. The photos here, for instance, are from the second-season episode titled “Swarley,” which originally aired Nov. 6, 2006 — more than four years before Bad Teacher hit theaters. So what exactly is going with this phenomenon? EW investigated, and here’s the scoop.

    Turns out that 20th Television — the studio distributor behind Mother — has been selling promotional spots in syndicated episodes to wring even more money out of the sitcom’s already rich syndication deals. Specifically, the feat is accomplished by a partnership with a company, SeamBI, which stands for Seamless Brand Integration and is responsible for digitally altering old episodes with new products and brands.

    The company’s CEO Roy Baharav calls SeamBI an “advertising technology innovator” and says that what they do — in essence, monetizing aging television shows by adding new brands and product placement into old episodes — is the future. “What we do is we insert, very efficiently, brands into content in a natural way and in a way that is valuable to advertisers,” Baharav says. “So we find the balance between not compromising the integrity of the content and, on the other end, bring a lot of value to the advertiser.”

  • When I think of product placement on television I think of Apple. They are the kings of product placement in movies and television

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      You notice Apple's placements because they are so unbelievable that their inclusion is every bit as annoying as an actual interruption for a commercial. Someone drinking a can of Coke? OK, that happens in real life, easily believable. A police station where every desk has a Mac on it? That interrupts the story enough to make you say wtf.

  • ("Sobriquet"? Really?)

    I like David Lynch's take on product placement.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4wh_mc8hRE [youtube.com]

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @12:50PM (#37108606)
    by 2020 actors will just be holding object to be tracked and the TV will render new skins over the top of them (objects & actor :) ). The object they hold in the studio along with the set around them will be just as fake as the industry that pumps it out. You'll never see the same ad object twice and people in different locations will see different cans of soda. It will work like google ads. If you scrub back to watch the scene again, you'll see a different can. If you do use this tech from this idea please donate money to something good and I'd like a house too. Thanks
  • I don't mind when it's just a part of the set, but the shameless ads are what annoy me. I was watching Grown Ups (yes, I know, I know) and there's a shameless scene of logos-up Donut vendor cups being used as kids phones. Just add commercial breaks if you're going to go full-on whore.

  • >When you think of product placement on television you tend to think of cumbersome 1950s examples where the actor would cheesily turn to camera and hold up, say, a bar of soap

    No I don't. I think of a scene with the actors driving somewhere, and one says to the other "hey, this is that new CANYONERO with that great NAVISYNCSTAR system, isn't it?" And the dialog just gets worse from there, while the camera lingers lovingly on the vehicles console for a creepily long time.

  • is that it exists and you are not spanked to death with a paddle for it.

    This is brought to you by "fuck you, I already paid for watching that flick with money and/or by watching the clearly marked and separate advertising."

    Also, it does not matter if they hold up soap and grin, all people use Dell/Apple/Nokia/younameit, everyone one two and a half men drinks Radeberger or if companies in Transformers only accept one kind of CC. I like to think I notice that crap and hope others do, as well.
    If anything, it l

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