Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Issue Six

Commercially Viable: the future of broadcast television

by Guest Author , August 19, 20114 Comments

In Issue Six of Kill Your Darlings, Laurie Steed described the strange fate of NBC‘s ‘Chuck’. Here, Laurie examines further television’s Faustian pact with advertising.

I have an agreement with television: it can sell me stuff as long as I can watch entertaining, innovative programming. To reiterate, I will endure sporadic spruiking as thanks for free access to a cornucopia of plots, characters and conflicts.

For me, advertisements are like Charlie Sheen: annoying and offensive, but ultimately an essential part of what makes free-to-air television viable.

With traditional ad sales declining, television is resorting to new types of brand integration. Product placement, which in layman’s terms is the placing of branded material in a context usually devoid of advertisements, has been the standard approach for decades. Put into practice, it looks like this:

 

 

A 2006 survey by the US-based Association of National Advertisers cited various reasons for choosing product placement over traditional advertising. These ranged from creating a ‘stronger emotional connection’, to the targeting of a specific group. In other words, it’s not enough to sell stuff during the ad breaks; they want the shows themselves to be compelling, immutable advertisements.

But where do we draw the line? Recent episodes of NBC’s Chuck saw major corporate sponsors inserted into narratives and even given storylines. A case in point was season four episode ‘Chuck vs. The Masquerade’, where Chuck’s sister Ellie and her husband Devon  visit mega retail outlet ‘Buy More’ to find something to help their baby sleep. Soon after, they find the perfect product, Cloud B’s ‘Sleep Sheep’. (You can view the scene here.)

After the episode screened in the US, Cloud B and fan site Chuck TV offered viewers a 50% discount on any ‘Sleep Sheep’ purchase in return for ‘liking’ the Sleep Sheep on Facebook. Soon after, Chuck TV again encouraged fans to purchase the product in support of Chuck.

Fans of the show were starting to get used to this. The series only reached a third season thanks to a sponsorship deal with Subway restaurants, which dictated ‘significant integration into the show’. Put simply, this meant plot lines about Subway sandwiches. Prior to the show’s renewal, fans were urged to visit Subway and ‘show their support’, which they did, buying footlongs, drinks and cookies in the hope they’d given Chuck another life.

This is not all that surprising for a show like Chuck; it’s in part a series about commercial interests, so an element of corporate crossover is inevitable given the show’s initial premise and indeed, many scenes are set in the Buy More. But what about an older program like The Cosby Show? Surely content produced without product placement is impervious from such commercial hijacking? Well, no, not according to companies like Mirriad.

Mirriad is a digital product placement facilitator. It inserts brands into previously recorded films and TV shows. Here, the agreement comes not from a contemporary merging of company and advertiser, but from a realignment of non-commercial content with commercial products. The end result is a visually stunning, product heavy montage. Or to put it another way, it’s Forrest Gump: now with extra ads.

 

 

Mirriad has already signed a deal with Channel Seven, with more networks likely to follow suit. What then, for the future of television? Can the viewer help define an engaging, culturally relevant medium? Well, I guess that depends. How much are you willing to pay for the privilege?

- Laurie Steed’s essay, ‘Revenge of the Nerd: Fetish, Fantasy and Chuck’ appears in Kill Your Darlings Issue Six.




  • http://www.jasonensor.com/ Jason Ensor

    A really great article. Like you, I’m troubled by the ways in which the profit-motive is insinuating itself into nearly every aspect of our lives. The retrospective branding of content is a new development and no doubt the offspring of those annoying advertisements that popup during mainstream programming (which often cover a third of the screen). Even though it is part of a long-running trend, it is still disturbing how marketing companies are doing their best to turn all entertainment into platforms for commodification or, at the very least, congenial adjuncts of advertising. I wonder though how the retrospective re-branding is decided since some choices could create new contexts and interpretations of content, even controversy. It is not a trivial thing, since the addition of an image into pre-existing content does more than merely re-shape the aesthetic identity of the television program in question. Consider, for example, the subtext about actors portraying Oscar-winning roles if the bench Forest Gump was sitting on contained a poster advertisement for ‘Tropic of Thunder’ or if the Crate & Bake box in ‘The Cosby Show’ was replaced with a copy of Pauline Hanson’s book ‘The Truth’. Extreme examples certainly but for every new advertisement inserted into pre-existing content, an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself. Advertisers, of course, bank on this but the context in which their advertisement is experienced may have some multiple social readings in potentially unforeseen ways. I wonder too how far retrospective advertising will respond to cultural preferences and local differences, say like how Apple has alternative advertisements for the iPad in different territories. Overall, it seems our lives are becoming more and more a part of what seems like a permanent marketing campaign.

  • genevieve

    Not The WALK OFF!! NOOOOOOOO.
    Perhaps another title for this post might be ‘do not be distracted by all the dazzling ads’!

  • Laurie

    Thanks for the commments, guys. Genevieve, you’ve articulated a really important point. My favourite moments in film are devoid of a commercial context; indeed, if an overt commercial angle is present, I’ll often distance myself from the emotional resonance of a film or TV show. This is advertising at its most devious, whereby a cultural experience, be it a song, historical moment or key scene in a film is hijacked and placed into a commercial context. The idea is ads becoming our cultural experiences, but viewers can inherently sense an overt sales pitch. Hence, they take a cultural experience, insert their product and hope for an intellectual (and emotional) link between the two.

    Jason, I agree, its fascinating to consider how much cultural preferences will be taken into account. One would think they’d feature local products, but I doubt the context will be so adjusted. This again, is part of the problem. When studios (or indeed advertising companies) are trying to “imagine” Australia, they have no relevant context, only sterotypes and dated mythology. What then, for a contemporary discourse on Australian identity, the recognition of local differences and cultural anomalies?

  • http://www.GIJ6nwY.net cyUX1

    838330 346335Hello there, just became alert to your blog via Google, and discovered that it

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

1560682_10153899026420591_499501666_n

Eli Glasman

Just a number: The literary world’s obsession with age

I used to be obsessed about what age I would be when I had my first novel published. I’d go on the Wikipedia pages of every famous writer I could think of to check how old they were when their first book came out. Read more »

winterson

Carody Culver

Jeanette Winterson’s sacred and secular space

It seems that people either love her or hate Jeanette Winterson, and sometimes that has less to do with her writing and more to do with the occasional controversies she’s regularly sparked since 1985. Read more »

Untitled

Veronica Sullivan

Adventures in reality with Oliver Mol

One of Mol’s recent pieces contains the line: ‘I want to put my bare ass on the cover of my book because not only will it make good promo but it speaks honestly about who I am.’ Read more »

The Tunnel TV review

Julia Tulloh

The Tunnel vs The Bridge: The ethics of TV remakes

A body is found in the Eurotunnel, neatly laid across the border between France and England. When police attempt to move the body, it splits in two with the top half in France and lower half in England. Read more »

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Julia Tulloh

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Julia Tulloh

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

lead_large

Rochelle Siemienowicz

On Boyhood, parenting and the passing of time

Since its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, film critics have been falling over themselves to lavish love upon Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Read more »

wetlands_poster

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival in full swing, anxieties arise again. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

hbo-silicon-valley

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Silicon Valley will eat itself

At a certain point in the lifespan of any subculture, fiction and reality start to blur. Members of the subculture begin to model their character and appearance on the idealised representations of themselves they read about or see on screen. Read more »

inbox

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Death to the Inbox

The primary source of our ‘email problem’ seems to lie in our belief that email is a vastly richer and more capable medium than it is. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

detail

Danielle Binks

Fan-Girling Over Super Heroines

The testosterone-fuelled BIFF! BANG! KAPOW! of classic comics can seem uninviting, filled with spandex-clad men and swooning damsels who hold limited appeal outside the stereotypical 18-35 year-old male demographic. But things are changing in the world of comics. Read more »

9780143305323

Danielle Binks

Australia Needs Diverse Books

The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ team is made up of authors, editors and publishers from North America, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and campaign has reverberated in youth literature communities worldwide. Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

Jabberwocky1

Chad Parkhill

The carnival is over

Jabberwocky, scheduled to take place last weekend, was the kind of festival that wasn’t supposed to fail. Read more »

Robin Thicke

Chad Parkhill

Why has Robin Thicke’s Paula flopped?

What, exactly, has caused Paula to sell so poorly that it has already positioned itself as this year’s most memorable flop? Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

2014-07-03-theleftovers

Stephanie Van Schilt

TV pilots: The good, the bad and The Leftovers

With the wealth of shows on offer, committing to a new TV series can feel like a big deal. It’s often during a pilot episode that audiences determine whether the program is appealing enough to stick with for the long haul. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »