...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Here's the deal:

The TV people and the advertisers paid for entertainment and gave it to us for free. We put up with commercials between the entertainment segments, often loved them, and, even more often, bought the advertised products. Worked great for everybody as long as the commercials stayed in the breaks, and we had no alternative. Then came cable and pay TV and the VCR...and then the Internet and broadband and TiVo and, and...advertising became, uh, not easy. So, now, there's a new deal: If you're going to watch free TV, you can be sure almost everything you see, other than the actors...nah, everything on the screen, with the possible exception of the actors...is bought and paid for as an ad "impression." It's called Product Placement. It's not new, but now it's not just the tail, it's the dog. This may be O.K., as long as the stuff we're watching is otherwise worthy, and we know what's going on. And of course, if you watch the likes of Survivor or The Apprentice, you know you're watching a game show utterly built around the sponsor's products. Expect more of it. But, I'm guessing the range of story and show ideas TV will consider is a little more limited now. Waiting for Godot might not make it to the air, even on Hallmark--not enough props to sell. But, we all have camcorders and editing software now, and our own connection to the Big Network. The barriers to entry to this elite world are falling fast, just as they are in publishing and journalism and radio. So, ad folks, you better speed up your evolution. Because the Product Placement dodge is already looking a little scuffed.

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