Thursday, May 05, 2005

I used my Sony Vaio laptop computer, with widescreen X-Brite display, to create this post…

Picture the following commercial. A woman walks into a bedroom to find her husband sitting down in front of a laptop. The husband notices that his wife has entered the bedroom and says, "Honey, do you have my American Advantage number? I'm on aa.com and I'm trying to use my miles to upgrade. You know me, I hate sitting in the middle."

Cheesy commercial for American Airlines? Could be. Lines of dialogue from one of this week's episodes of the The O.C. Shouldn't be. But it was.

Ok, so here's the thing. Regular network TV shows like, say, The-just-mentioned O.C., have about 16 minutes of commercials during an hour of programming. Commercials suck, but I don't fault the networks for doing this - they need to make their bucks. Reality TV producers figured out how to take it a step further with in-show product placement. Survivor, The Apprentice and American Idol are the most obvious and glaring culprits of this practice. Now I'm not sure that the reality shows really need these product placements in light of the fact that: (i) the networks generally get good ad rates for these shows since the shows post high ratings; and (ii) reality TV is supposed to be (as I understand it) relatively cheap to produce. So product placement is just a way to make extra money. I don't like it, but up 'till now, as egregious as some of the product placement has been, I've lived it with, because at this point it has unfortunately just sort of become a part of reality TV.

But now product placement has taken the next step, as it would seem that the network execs are catching on, at least at Fox. I suspect more and more we will have to sit through awful and obvious in-show ads like the aforementioned American ad. The worst thing about this is that, if done properly, in-show product placement doesn't have to be quite so terrible. And surprisingly enough, we only need look at the same television show to see this.

Tonight, there were two episodes of The O.C. thanks to last week’s Presidential preemption. The second episode also featured an in-show product placement, but it followed two rules that should be required for any in-show advertising. It was a little subtle and it more-or-less fit within the context of the show.

Seth and Ryan play video games all the time on this show, right? Or at least they did last year when the show was really good. Anyway, this might lead to the logical conclusion that a game company could pay for its game to be featured, right? If I understand all the commercials I've seen lately, I think there's a new Star Wars movie coming out. And there will of course be a tie-in video game. Maybe that Lucas cat should get The O.C. guys to show his game in their show? Ask and ye shall receive.

Now, on top of the fact that Seth and Ryan have actually played video games on The O.C. before, this particular game happens to be the type of game they would actually play, what with Seth being the somewhat stereotypical comic book geek. So the product being advertised cleanly fits within the world of the show, in general, and the characters, in particular. Not only was the “ad” handled well contextually, but it was also handled well procedurally. There was a slightly delayed screen shot of the game, and then a little dialogue that related to both the game (by mentioning lightsabers and Jedis) and the current-at-that-moment plot elements of the show. They didn't even say the actual name of the game. If anything, they may have even been a little too subtle – while I suspected that it was a new Star Wars game, I was not certain it was for a new game until I saw a regular ad for the game later in the night and recognized a similar screen shot. If in-show product placement hadn’t been on my mind due to the earlier American debacle, I might not have even caught it as an obvious ad.

If we are going to see more of this in the future, which I have no doubt we are, I sincerely hope we see more of the later and less of the former.

Of course, if Microsoft wants to pay me to mention what program I’m using to type this blog, well that’s a different story entirely....


At 10:21 AM, Blogger Bug said...

I can confirm that yes, in fact, there is a new Star Wars game. It's called Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith The Video Game.

Me and my Blackspot sneakers approve this comment.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger ceymick said...

How on Earth did they ever come up with such a creative title?

At 7:34 PM, Blogger EmoRiot said...



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