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product placement

  • Smart Product Placement and Learning When to Say No

    Branding. There's a lot of fun stuff that goes into it: timeless logos, a catchy a slogan, some product placement. But that's where we reach the core of a dilemma here.

    I recently saw Roberto Vergati Santos' collection of branded superheroes. Santos, an Italian artist, decided to reimagine a world where the superhero was sponsored, and how that would reflect on their image. Check out Batman and that familiar logo:

    It's an interesting concept, and the art is spot-on, but I've also seen this before.

    Over across the Pacific, in Japan there is an anime show called Tiger & Bunny. Silly show title aside, it's set in a futuristic, Gotham City type of landscape. Nearly every character in the show has some sort of superpower. However, they can't become full-fledged heroes unless they have a sponsor and earn a stint on the city's hit reality show "Hero TV". If you've got some time, check out the series on Hulu.

    Like I said, both Santos' work and Tiger & Bunny are fascinating takes on the idea of advertising to the extreme. Personally, I love them both. But it brings up a interesting issue: where do we draw the line at branding and product placement?

    Television

    There's Coca-Cola cups on American Idol. iPhones are in every character's hand. Some even sport Starbucks mugs and Adidas. It's everywhere, but usually, it's pretty subtle. Then there's something I call the "Hyundai Effect".

    On The Walking Dead season 2, Hyundai decided to throw in their sponsorship for the show. This is all fine and dandy, of course. But then the characters in the show find a Hyundai SUV that's magically in working order, and are now using. Okay, that's cool.

    Then Hyundai decided to throw a contest where fans could win the Hyundai they found on the show. Say what? That's a little too much Hyundai in my opinion.

    In Hollywood shows, they tend to have more generic cars for their characters, or even go so far as to rip off nameplates and hood ornaments, so that you can't identify the car. Some manufacturers can create unidentifiable vehicles to make their show less about the cars and more about the characters. This may have been just me, but I found the whole Hyundai business a little distracting from The Walking Dead. It was a nice car that stood our garishly from the other rundown cars in the caravan of zombie survivors, and all I could think of was product placement, product placement.

    If you plan to venture down a path similar to this, you may want to rethink your strategy. It could go two ways: people will love your product and actually pay attention to it, or they might not care and think it's distracting. Trust me, some people will love it! We just don't want to be hit over the head with it.

    Extent of Product Placement

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to sponsor someone or something and getting your name out there. But just like Santos'  pieces and Tiger & Bunny, we don't want to see your logos on things we revere and cherish, like our superheroes.

    Make sure that your product fits the style and tone of the show. We aren't going to see a Ferrari on The Walking Dead , unless it makes sense to the story (like they robbed a wealthy house, or something).

    If you're going to put your product in a TV show or a film, aspire to the immortal words of Tim Gunn and "Make it work." Tune in next time, when I'll explore a few options for you to choose from, when it comes to smarter ways to marketing your brand.

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