It’s no surprise that ReplayTV and Tivo owners skip commercials.
And while it was perhaps a surprise, it was almost inevitable that Tivo started charging advertisers for direct access to Tivo users.
But in the newest twist, there has been a whopping 84% increase in product placement in television shows in the past year alone, for which many are blaming Tivo and its other DVR brethren, like ReplayTV. You see, if the viewers are going to skip commercials, we’ll get our advertising in front of them somehow.
Now, if you’re like me, you probably have never given product placement much thought, other than to laugh at the lampooning of it in Wayne’s World. Sadly, it turns out that the Wayne’s World parody of product placement wasn’t really much of a parody at all.
In fact it turns out that, at least in today’s world, that is almost exactly how product placement works. You don’t just tactfully place the advertiser’s product on the set and let the viewers passively observe it. Advertisers are now paying networks to have their products included – no, pushed – in the storyline, and it’s not a pretty sight.
For example, NBC recently made a deal with Sony in which Sony paid to have their new movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, plugged during an episode of the NBC series “Medium”. The Medium writers were required to work references to the Geisha movie into the episode’s dialogue three times, leading to the contrived storyline of two of the characters going on a date to see Geisha, and then bumping into friends and telling them how great Geisha was.
But perhaps the really telling measure of just how bad it has become was when on a recent episode of the soap opera All My Children, a man suffered a gunshot wound, and as his wife sat by his hospital bedside the writers were forced to work a reference to a new Wal-Mart perfume into the dialogue!
And the thing is that product placement in television shows is much more insidious than are regular television commercials. A commercial is very clearly a commercial – and so viewers can take them with a healthy dose of salt. But product placement advertising is much more subtle. Hey, if the writers and actors on Medium like Memoirs of a Geisha so well as to include it in an episode, it must be great, right? Let’s run right out and see it!
Because that’s the insidious part – the average television viewer has no idea that the seemingly tacit endorsement of the product in the television show is actually a paid endorsement, foisted on the writers. To the average viewer, it’s a recommendation from a trusted friend.
Nasty, nasty, nasty.