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May 7, 2009

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ads%20times%20sq%20500v2.jpgGuest poster Owl Meat has come up with one of those topics I wish I had thought of first. I should ask all of you to post every example of a food product placement on a TV show you notice in the next week. I wonder how many we'd come up with? The one that drives me crazy, although it's not a food, is that everybody on TV uses Macs, not PCs. Now I'm a Mac person, but I know what they are good for and what they aren't. And my guess is that it would be hard to find a company other than Apple (food reference) that used nothing but Macbooks. But I digress. Here's guest poster Owlie. EL

Product placement is when a company pays to have their product featured in a television show or film usually as a prop or part of the background.  Ever wonder why the President and his cabinet are drinking Diet Mr. Pibb on 24?  The idea is that if Jack Bauer drinks Diet Pibb then maybe you can stay up for a day fighting implausible terrorists and your cell phone battery will never need to be charged. ...

One disappointing part of The Wire was the obvious Dunkin' Donuts product placement.  Sure, cops eat doughnuts but not just Dunkin' Donuts.  There were too many scenes where a virtuous character was parked in front of one of their shops. 

Product placement is also obvious when  the name and logo of the product is always clearly readable in the foreground of a shot.  It's not a big deal, but it does break the dramatic moment.
In some ways it's better than when a character walks into a bar and asks for "a beer" and gets "a beer" with no other discussion.  Ever see a character on a television show pull a beer out of the fridge and it just says "BEER" on the label? 

I think they are getting better now with Photoshop, creating plausible-looking beer cans or bottles that look like Budweiser without actually using the name or exact logo.  Brand-name food and drinks are a regular part of most American's daily life, so these bad mockups break the dramatic moment.
30 Rock seems to walk a post-modern line by having product placement in the show and in the show within the show.  When they do it they usually make fun of the corporate goons who are forcing them to do so.  Confused yet?  They seem  to feature GE microwaves a lot, including a tiny one that you can use in the shower.  With 30 Rock it's hard to tell the product placement from product placement parody and sometimes they seem to function as both.  In the 30 Rock world GE owns NBC but GE's parent company is the fictional Sheinhardt Wig Company whose motto is "Not Poisoning Rivers Since 1997."  
30 Rock
also has a running gag with fake product Sabor de Soledad (The Taste of Loneliness), a Mexican Cheetos knockoff that can cause false positive pregnancy tests because of testosterone in the ingredients. 

Do we care if Isabella Rossellini's character's fondness for Arby's Big Beef and Cheddar is real or product placement?  Who cares, the image is hilarious. 

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:11 AM | | Comments (32)


The only TV I watch is hockey, so all I've noticed is Gatorade logos on all the water bottles.

Kind of makes me want to take a clip from some Bergman film, say, "Persona," and photoshop some product placement in.

How about McNultys affinity to Jameson and Heineken? Thats the only whiskey bottle and beer bottle they ever showed. Season 2 the union workers drank coors light and jack, though.

Representing the Reality Check contingent, I'll point out the almost-absurd product placement of Coke on the judges' table.

Not only are the cups there, the judges seems to drink from them only when they are in an individual close-up shot.

Taking things to extremes, there's CHUCK on NBC. Fans are is using the ongoing product placement of Subway to encourage viewers to lean on advertisers to encourage the network to bring Chuck back! Yay Chuck!

And they also had a non-product placement where Jeff requested a case of beer, "Beer brand".

I like the Wendy's product placement in the David Hasselhoff is drunk again film.

Union members drinking non union Coors? Somebody blew that placement.

How can you forget Omar's affinity for Honey Nut Cherios? It nearly got him killed!

I didn't realize how much produt placement was in The Wire. I thought the Dunkin Donuts placement was obnoxious and broke the moment. McNulty drinking Jameson's? That just seemed right. Omar and Honey Nut Cheerios. That seems cool. I like when they use real products but only when it fits the character and when they don't overemphasize it in the shot.

EL, yes Macs in offices are annoying.

James Bond movies are really filthy with paid product placement.

And Omar's Newport cigarettes.

On Friends, in Joey's apartment there was always a Chock-Full-o-Nuts can and a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on top of the fridge.

I don't know how I remembered that, haven't seen the show in quite awhile.

The show "Gary Unmarried" was on last night, and I remember thinking how blatant their product placement of KFC's new grilled chicken was. It was like a mini commercial. Then this morning I heard that yesterday KFC was offering free samples of the new chicken. The way "30 Rock" does it, it fits well into the scheme of the show. But this just seemed over the top.

Disclaimer: I don't actually watch that show. It's on after "The New Adventures of Old Christine" with Julie Louis-Dryfus, who I love.

Hey, today is Odd Day!

Saw this on the web
Today's date, 5/7/09, is one of only six this century that will feature three consecutive odd numbers.

I think a question that must be asked here is do you prefer product placement or straight out commercials? Personally, I'll take product placement any day.

About The Wire specifically, in many cases the product placement added to the character's personality. And-while I know HBO is a pay channel- how much of the $$ required to create this AMAZING show (yes, I'm very biased, and no, I have no financial interest) came from those placements?

I'm gonna have to challenge you Owl. I don't think the Dunkin Donuts ever ruined the scene. Yes, the "cop eats donuts" is an obnoxious cliche...but where else would a baltimore cop go? Starbucks for coffee? dont think so. Local shops? Do we really have any local coffee/donut shops that a city cop would frequent? I really dont know, just asking. Though it is clealy product placement, I think it works, just like McNutty's Jameson and Omar's Cheerios.

Now I can't stop raking my brain for other Wire placements..."Fuzzy Dunlop"? "Yellow Tops", "Spider Bags"...just kidding.

I never thought that the Wire was shilling for products until the director had some weird shots where the placement of the pristine Dunkin Donuts box in the shot was weird and when the Dunkin Donuts sign in front of the shop was perfectly framed in the shot. It took me out of the moment.

EL - you sa you know what Mac's are good for & what they are not good for. Tell me what aren't they good for?

Product placement makes me think of the movie Junior Bonner starring Steve McQueen. All the beer in the movie was Miller High Life. No other brands. Maybe this was just Peckinpahs favorite or maybe it was product placement.

There was a pretty hilarious scene in the new 90210 where someone opened up a cooler filled with Dr. Peppper, and the camera paused on it for like 3 seconds.

Not that I watch 90210.

"I think a question that must be asked here is do you prefer product placement or straight out commercials?"

Unfortunately it isn't an "either-or" choice. You still get the same dose of commercials plus the product placement.

Your assignment should you choose to accept it, Impossible Mission Force, is to see what product placement you see on the tube tonight.

The Office, which is on tonight, gets regularly jabbed for product placement: when Dwight worked at Staples, the Christmas party at the Benihana's in Scranton [a Benihana there is absurd], etc.

For 30 Rock fans you may recall that Alec Baldwin's character described product placement as "adverlingus". Marry me Tina Fey.

Let's not confuse product placement with simply referring to a product. Product Placement is when the product pays to be included in the story, while simply referring to a product is just a matter of the writer's preference. So, perhaps when the Office included Staples in a story line that was product placement, but I would imagine the when Benihana found its way into a story line that was simply because the writers thought going to the Benihana was funnier than going to the Japanese Steakhouse.

A Benihana's in Scranton would be downright exotic.

Benihana in Scranton? Uh huh, and there is a Friendly's in Paris, too, right?

(I like Scranton. A lot. Neat little city. No jobs, though.)

It is hard tell tell product placement from writer's choice. I would imagine you still need legal clearance for the latter. 30 Rock featured the McFlurry over and over in one episode and Tina Fey said that there was no compensation; the writers just thought it was funny. And I believe every word she has ever said. EVER.

I'm watching Survivor right now. They just plugged some kind of cell phone. But I didn't catch what it was.

The last few episodes of The Office (including tonights) have featured UTZ Cheeseballs.

The Utz Cheeseballs placement was brilliant because it fit into the script and was funny. It never occurred to me that it was PP. That's the best way.

The Office has also used Herr's potato chips, which like Utz, makes sense because they are PA based snack foods.

You still get the same dose of commercials plus the product placement.

Thanks for pointing this out, RiE. I read this question and once more, felt like that kid in The Emperor's New Clothes

Frankly, I usually wander off during commercials. Sometimes I go to my book. I frequently forget that I've been watching something, so this topic is interesting in the abstract, but my attention span is just too short inreference to the commercials for me to recognize details of programs.

Yes, we have no bananas, bananas in Scranton, PA.

During commercials? I make out with the money I could have saved with GEICO.

Last night's 30 Rock featured something called TimeOut magazine

If you watch things live you may still get commercials as well, but tv producers have to compensate somehow for the increasing number of people who just watch things online (legally or otherwise) as well as on dvr/tivo so they just fast forward through commercials. I so rarely watch tv live on an actual television at school, and then when I'm at home my parents have a dvr and never watch commercials.

On another note, none of you probably watch it but Gossip Girl is inundated with product placement- notably Vitamin Water and whatever phone is of the moment

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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