I Spy Smart Product Placement

While watching American Idol when I was younger, I noticed the Coca Cola cups on the judges’ tables every week. I mean, who couldn’t notice them? They were giant and right by their microphones, perfect placement. I was a Coca Cola addict, so I just remember thinking, “Those judges are so lucky to have an endless supply of Coke right at their fingertips as they listen to these never-ending auditions.”

I was in elementary school when the show started and I think that was the first time I noticed this type of sponsorship/product placement. At the time I was too young to even realize Coke had to pay millions to be on American Idol as a sponsor; all I knew was it was really cool that American Idol had a lot of Coca Cola. But as I started to grow up, I became very aware and intrigued with this sort of marketing.

As I have watched a variety of TV shows over the years, I have noticed quite a few product placements. Here are three great examples of this type of advertising.

  1. 30 Rock & The Office

I remember watching 30 Rock and laughing at its over the top product placement jokes. They didn’t even try to hide the fact that they had endorsements; instead, they embraced them and even wrote them into the script. This clip from a 30 Rock episode promotes Snapple. It’s very comical especially since they are talking about not using the show to promote products. On the other hand, The Office had almost double the number of product placements in a season compared to 30 Rock, yet they were very sly about it because they didn’t intentionally draw attention to their product placements. I liked this funny clip of The Office talking about the restaurant Chili’s.

  1. Jane The Virgin

One new example of this type of marketing that I believe has been done well is Target’s partnership with the television show Jane the Virgin. I first noticed it on one episode when Jane comes home from grocery shopping and she’s carrying multiple reusable Target tote bags with their famous bulls-eye.

Jane with her Target bag
Jane with her Target bag in an episode.

Throughout the season, Target has continued to be in episodes, and while some people may become annoyed with the constant Target presence, to me it makes sense. Jane’s got to shop somewhere and I’d rather it be a place I know of instead of a made up store name. She lives in the real world, so why not use real world examples of an actual store…plus the show gets some money for doing so. Target even provides behind the scene clips from the show which viewers enjoy. It’s a win-win.

Target’s VP of Media Strategy Stevie Benjamin said, “Working with the producers, our strategy was to start slowly and authentically integrate the Target brand into Jane’s life. Once we established that Jane was a fan of Target, we then incorporated the brand more overtly, but still in a very organic way. It’s all about the character and how the brand naturally fits within her life.”

  1. Netflix Shows

Network TV Shows aren’t the only ones cashing in on this product integration opportunity. Netflix may not have commercials, but it’s been making deals with companies for some of its original shows. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s brews are consumed by some of the characters in House of Cards, and although it’s reported Anheuser-Busch isn’t paying for its product to be used in the episodes, they are supplying the show’s production with a good stash of its Stella Artois, Budweiser and Shock Top. The show has to be paid somehow for this placement, so I’m sure the crew doesn’t mind getting this stash of drinks in return.

It’s also been rumored that Samsung penned a deal with the Netflix show as well. Since Netflix doesn’t have commercials and relies on customer subscriptions, it makes sense for it to ink deals with multiple companies to add extra income.

It’s interesting that product placement has been around for decades and continues to be prevalent in television, movies, and even streaming services like Netflix. I like to think I have a good eye for this sort of thing; I tend to notice product placements when I watch TV shows. Next time you’re watching your favorite show I challenge you to think like an advertiser and be on the lookout for a product placement.

Alexa Ude, Account Assistant