Bree arrives home in a new silver Lexus and all the other Desperate Housewives gather round to admire it. James Bond taps into a terror network using a Sony laptop. In Moonlight, Beth Turner takes a picture of the crime scene with her iPhone…
All of the above are examples of product placement, a form of advertising in which the products are incorporated into the drama. Recent James Bond films have featured some outrageous examples, such as a character admiring Bond’s watch, or unnecessary dwelling on the screen of his mobile phone. There’s even an official James Bond beer.
On TV, Desperate Housewives is probably the show with the most over the top placement – considering Susan is supposed to be broke, and Carlos and Gabby bankrupt, the Scavos also in financial difficulties following the collapse of their restaurant, and Mike Delfino struggling – it doesn’t stop all those brand-new cars from turning up in the neighbourhood.
ITV have been putting pressure on the British government to change the rules in the UK. It does seem unfair that imported American shows and films can have it, but home-grown dramas cannot. Now, according to the BBC, the ban is about to be lifted. The Guardian reports it here. This might prove to be the salvation of ITV and Channel 4. Coronation Street drinkers in the Rover’s Return can now drink real branded beers (unless alcohol advertising is banned); Foyle can now use a Motorola phone to call the RAF in Foyle’s War (perhaps not); Lewis can now ride around Oxford on a Trek bicycle. I’m sure they’ll think of something.
While this might introduce a new revenue stream for the broadcasters, it hardly helps the creative side of the advertising industry. We’re heading down the road of simply negotiating a placement in a show, leaving it up to the writers to incorporate it in such a way that the viewers won’t turn off. For the Tarquins and Marcuses in the creative agencies, not much work. No animated Nissans or singing builders dreaming about chips.