The Best Product Placement Ever – by Jeff Hirsch

Today’s New York Times features a piece on “Virtual Product Placement” in the business section.

The great Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker once said, “Half of my advertising budget is wasted. I only wish I knew which half.”

In the case of product placement, I think I’m safe in saying that 90%-99% is probably wasted. Does anyone really think that a shot of Club Crackers digitally inserted into an episode of “Yes, Dear” is going to help their business? Well, someone does. Maybe since I don’t get “Product Placement News” or whatever trade journal covers that kind of thing I’m not seeing the numbers that justify the investment.

The way I look at it is that if a product “organically” shows up in a movie or TV show, plays a prominent role and really helps define the story or one of the characters, you’ve got a winner. But it takes a very enlightened advertiser and an extremely open-mined (or greedy) artist to really make this happen.

For example, the Jerry Seinfeld character loved cereal in his show. But he was into variety, and one brand was never dominant. I wonder, if Jerry’s childhood favorite was Trix, and we saw that box in 20+ episodes over several years, what might have happened to that brand.

Lucky for us that there was some artistic integrity to the show.

The best product placements do not originate with marketers, but with artists. My personal favorite – The “Bosco” episode of Seinfeld. Bosco (the chocolate syrup) was George’s ATM password. He wouldn’t share it with anyone, even his fiance. If you saw this episode, it’s unlikely you’ll forget it. I wonder if Bosco sales kicked up after that?

Anyway, desperation is truly in the air when marketers cut and paste products into TV shows and hope for the best. Another in the collection of unrelated tactics that often try to pass for a “big idea” these days.

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