Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The other day I read an article in BusinessWeek on the television shows with the most product placements. http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/04/0423_tv_product_placements/index.htm

I expected shows like American Idol, America's Next Top Model and The Apprentice to make the list. What surprised me was that rounding out the list was the one broadcast show I watch, The Office. The Office had 1,609 "total occurrences" of product placement (as opposed to nearly 7,000 for Biggest Loser). The brands featured on The Office were Cisco and HP.

I actually noticed when I was watching the show last Thursday a closeup of a Cisco phone. And I said to myself, "that's wrong. A backwards place like the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin would not have a phone like that," but it never crossed my mind that that incident was product placement.

If you make office products, why would you want to associate with those nimrods? Does anyone seriously think that this sort of advertising promulgates brands in a positive way? I know I have a dim view of American culture but I unable to understand how 24-Hour Fitness benefits when a lady standing in front of a national television audience in a jog bra and spandex shorts drops from 270lbs to 263 lbs. Even if this behemoth gets down to a "non-American" level of adipose, I can't really see where it would help a gym.

What's happening in the world of advertising today is that people have convinced themselves that the old ways don't work. That they need to do an iPhone app with fart noises or product placement on a show like "My 6-Year Old is Airborne." This abnegation of the tried and true has happened throughout history.

Let me steal a page now from David Ogilvy. If you lost your dog, chances are you make a sign and post it on lamp-posts in your neighborhood. It would have a headline: Lost Dog and a subhead: reward and a picture of your dog. If you were creative there might be a line of copy about heartbroken kids. Ads still work and will always work if they hit the target and are well-crafted.

Sure, have a dalliance with product placement. Go ahead put adhesives on man-hole covers and elevator doors. All that's fine. But first, pay careful attention to the basics.

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