Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Reality

If you have been following this blog (or my life) you probably already know that I watch lots of television. Way too much television. If I wasn't married, I'm pretty sure I'd leave the television on at all times. I find all kinds of excuses to leave the TV on. During the day I convince myself that our dog likes to watch TV, so I leave it on for him sometimes. When I travel, I leave it on when I leave my hotel room and somehow convince myself that by leaving the TV on, it's less likely that someone will break into my room. I know how irrational this is, so you don't have to tell me. I think it's just because I really, really like TV.

There isn't much that I don't like about television, but there is one thing that gets me to turn off the TV (or at least change the channel) - the lost art of product placement and subliminal advertising. To clarify, I'm not against subliminal advertising or in-show product placement - I actually think it's brilliant. I just don't like the fact that advertisers don't really try to hide it anymore. Product placement used to be awesome. You'd end up buying something from the store and not realize why until you saw a re-run of the episode. Damn that Michael J. Fox and his Pepsi products.

Like most things, this new lazy product placement can be blamed on reality television. And like most of the pitfalls of reality television, this can be blamed on Survivor. I think it was the first season of Survivor when Jeff Probst awarded Richard Hatch with a Pontiac Aztek when his torch was the last one lit when advertisers realized that they no longer needed to 'sneak' their products into TV shows. On a side note, I think that all 8 of the Pontiac Azteks sold in the United States can be directly attributed to Survivor.

So Survivor was the first, but it has gotten way way worse in the last decade. One of my favorite shows with the absolute worst product placement is The Biggest Loser. Bob, Jillian, and the competitors hawk everything from Jennie-O Turkey to Extra Gum to Ford Freestyles. Oh, and then make it look like it's a conversation:

Contestant 1: Hey Bob, what are you making?

Bob: Just grilling up some Jenni-O Turkey.

Contestant 2: But Bob, is that healthy?

Bob [I'm not sure what Bob says at this point, I get upset and change the channel]

I think if I end up on a reality show, I'll probably freak out like Jim Carrey on The Truman Show when the other contestants start one of these advertisements. I haven't seen the movie in about a decade, but I seem to remember him going nuts on his pseudo-wife when she started one of these mini-commercials in their kitchen. That's probably how I'd get voted off of whatever reality show I end up on. Either that, or it'll be the fact that I would refuse to use the word 'alliance' during my show.

Some product placement just makes me sad. On Rock of Love II, Brett Michaels did a mini commercial for Dave and Busters during the "Meet the Ex-Boyfriends" episode. I mean, the guy used to be the lead singer of Poison, and now he's telling me where I should go next time I want to play air hockey with the guys. Oh, and then he says he's not sure if one of the girls can handle his Rock'n'Roll lifestyle. Really Brett? Can she not keep up with your potato skins and ski ball lifestyle?

So those are just a couple of examples. There are plenty of others. Please share your (least) favorite product placement as a comment to this post. Whatever show it is, I'm sure I've seen it. Or at least my dog has.


bojengle said...

I don't mind product placement in reality TV, because in my heart I have already accepted the guilt that must come with watching reality TV. The product placement I love is when they don't try to hide it because the absurdity makes it funny. Dell and mac laptops are notorious for having shots with their logo big in the middle of the camera. There is a great one in thomas crown affair I think where rene russo drinks a pepsi or coke and they just pause while she is taking a swig. Also Colbert's plugging doritos make me crave nacho cheese doritos.

Sal said...

Quite possibly, by far, the absolute worst case of this I have seen in my entire life without a doubt is Top Chef. They get into their Toyota Highlanders to drive to the Fresh Market and buy name brand products to go back and cook in their GE Monogram appliance-equipped kitchens in order to win $100,000 courtesy of the Glad Family of Products and an expose in Food and Wine Magazine. Not to mention that half of the quickfire challenges start with "most people in this country love (insert product here). Your challenge is to find a new way to take (insert same product) and make it more like haute cuisine." The reason I can put up with it is I will probably never buy a Toyota Highlander (nothing personal Nate) I will never shop at Fresh Market because there isn't one within 150 miles of my house, I doubt I will ever have a need for a 30-burner GE Monogram cooktop/oven combo, and I bought Glad plastic bags for taking my sandwich to work many years before Top Chef came out. That being said, I am still praying to 8 pound 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus for Powerade's release of Mystic Mountain Berry, because I really want it to cool me off on a hot summer day.

Nate Romance said...

I forgot to mention the Real World/Road Rules Challenges on MTV. They have terrible product placement, and it's sort of a joke for the competitors. The products they promote (like the latest T-Mobile Phone or a Razor Scooter) are a good fit for MTV's demographic, but the people on the RW/RR Challenge are pushing 40 these days so it's fun to watch them get fake-excited about their new scooters and phones.

R. J. Talyor said...

I was driving in Chicago a few years ago and the someone had affixed white stick-on letters to the back of their Aztek that spelled out "Yeah, I know it's ugly" in the back window.