KYD Advent Calendar

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

9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »