Okay, time for full disclosure – or rather a reminder of two things that are important for you to know before you read this post.
1. I majored in advertising. This always comes across as peculiar because for the most part, I despise commercials (among other forms of advertising).
2. I have really crappy and/or juvenile taste in television. A few of the shows I watch religiously are on the CW.
Now that I have offered up my disclaimer, I can make this statement: I have a huge disdain for flagrant product placement.
I am completely fine with the use of products in movies and television shows when it is a natural fit. After all, this is what makes shows seem more realistic. I am completely fine with a character drinking Vitamin Water at a “sponsored party.” I’m okay with you driving a Mercedes and checking Facebook during a television show. Because guess what? People do that in real life.
Here’s what I’m not okay with.
It began Monday night on “Life Unexpected” (entertaining and clever new show, if you haven’t seen it yet). Three of the main characters were getting ready to embark on a roadtrip when the father opened a laptop to a prominently featured State Farm website and made an extremely scripted comment about “looking at this and learning to drive safe.”
Seriously? It just didn’t belong. It was blatant and forced. It made me want to cringe.
Days later, I was watching “Gossip Girl,” also on the CW. “Gossip Girl” has long been a target for product placement – after all, they are the ones successfully convincing your teenagers to drink Vitamin Water, text on certain phones (they all seem to have the same phone) and have threesomes. (/sarcasm) Out of nowhere, Dan asks his dad where they can find Polaroid film and suddenly, the cameras cut to a full-on screen shot of Bing, searching for “Polaroid film.”
I was laughing at Defamer’s recap of this episode, specifically Rufus’ “power play” – “All he is good for is as a pawn for the Bing product placement.”
So here’s the deal, CW – no more awkward product placements! Let’s aim for subtlety. There is no reason for you to create terrible, irrelevant dialogue in an effort to market brands to your supposed target audience. Did this made me want to use Bing? No. Was it the first time I had ever heard of Bing? No. They do, after all have those grating commercials where people experience “search overload.”
I’m sure product placement works at times – one success story was Reese’s Pieces in the movie E.T. The Extraterrestrial. Like all advertising, there is a time and a place. But right now, the CW needs to find a better way or stop it altogether.