Pervasive Product Integration – Who Cares?

tina_fey When I was a kid product placement was a bottle of Clorox on the laundry room shelf in Poltergeist, or those tasty Reese’s Pieces that lured ET. Times have changed. It’s not enough to get your can of soda on the table next to the heartthrob. Successful consumer product integration occurs when a brand becomes inextricably identified with a movie or television show.

Ever More Pervasive Advertising

Where the old school of product placement created a subtle association between your favorite show or character and a products, product integration affects everything from the props to the script to custom made commercials to air during the show. It’s all about getting products into the scripts, into the hands of the characters, even as a key component of the plot.

All this has evolved in part to battle technology like TiVo from taking advertising out of the television equation.

Product integration has its critics. Watchdog group Commercial Alert takes the stand that product integration is deceptive advertising and advocates a crawl to let viewers know when integrated products are being featured. The Writer’s Guild of America West agrees. Writers apparently don’t like getting notes from sponsors on the quality of their content.

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Tina Fey Doesn’t Seem to Mind

30 Rock has become the poster show for product integration, being so blatant as to have Tina Fey break the ‘third wall’ and speak directly to sponsor Verizon – “Can we have our money now?”

Linda Holmes on NPR’s Monkey See has been intrigued by the diversity of reactions from actors and other creative types that

“run the gamut from being extremely offended at the thought of product integration in general to extremely offended at the thought of television show runners thinking they’re above commerce.”

My question is so what? If you’re watching TV that’s essentially free, who do you think is paying for it? It’s the old battle of art vs. commerce. Only the technology has changed.

Can one truly survive without the other?