It is said that viewers these days are more savvy than they used to be, that advertising has changed to accommodate today's viewers. I don't know that viewers are more savvy, but advertising does continue to change, sometimes in very interesting ways.
Look at last night's episode of Eureka for an example of that. A plotline this season deals with a corporate “fixer” coming in to the town in order to stop wasteful spending. One of her genius ideas? Establish a new department for the making of commercial projects. A good idea, but as someone points out, starting up a new department costs tons of money. The fixer explains it's no problem, they've received corporate sponsorship that covers the costs. The sponsor is Degree antiperspirant. This season's Eureka is also sponsored by Degree antiperspirant.
It's genius. It's pure genius.
They're able to talk about Degree on the show, wink-wink, nudge-nudge style, claiming that they're only doing so because Degree is sponsoring the lab. They actually got their writers to write into the show a Degree commercial. It's there, it's certainly paid for… it's worked into show content itself. Do you see, it's pure genius. I just love it. Do you realize, they've even gotten me to say “Degree antiperspirant” over and over again.
The whole thing tonight reminded me of 30 Rock's cell phone sponsorship bit this past season in which Liz talked about some cell phone for a while and then looked at the camera and asked the sponsor for the show's money. Okay, it's very much like that. It kind of makes me wonder, as they're both on NBC-Universal networks, if the same bunch of folks didn't have a hand in both things or if someone didn't talk to someone else and point the Eureka folks to the 30 Rock people.
Frankly, I'd kind of be happy if they did have a tête-à-tête. The first one was clever, the second one was still clever. Sure, by the time we get to the 18th or 20th it might be less than clever, but it still works. You know it does. It is way more fun to watch the wink-wink of turning on an electronic Degree logo on the back of someone's jumpsuit than to watch Simon Cowell sip a Coke while some people that can sort of sing try to do so in front of a Ford pickup truck.
In the end, here's the way I see it – TV shows are going to continue to have product placements, wouldn't we rather be amused by the product placements than be unamused by them? I would even imagine that the advertisers like the amusing ones, because they actually cause you to think about the whole thing afterwards. So, not only are you getting that logo imprinted on you in a way you don't think about, you also actively contemplate the product and how it was worked in. It's really quite a good advertising tool.
Those nice folks over at Mad Men are assuredly impressed by what's going on. TiVos probably cause them some amount of agida, but good product placement seems right up their alley.