`Must See` Product Placement on NBC Thursdays

In case you've find yourself spending more money than usual each Friday, I think I may have found out the cause of your sudden spending splurges. Each week I tune into NBC's ratings-paradise Thursday night prime time, I'm finding the commercials a bit tougher to sit through. And I'm talking about the commercials that go on DURING THE EPISODE.

Ever since the first episode of Tina Fey's 30 Rock, I immediately realized what a potential ratings blockbuster NBC would have on its hand if they would only move 30 Rock and Scrubs to join their other smash sitcoms My Name is Earl and The Office on Thursday nights. Within 6 weeks, NBC execs finally gave into my demands and shifted the schedule. I honestly think it is the most solid two hours of comedy in the network's history.

And with that move, began some of the most blatant product placement I have ever seen. You'd think that selling ad-time with this schedule would be a sit-back-and-cash-in job. But NBC has been hard at work grabbing pennies. They've begun bidding in-episode advertisements to the highest bidder. Oh sweet capitalism.

Take for example...

I sensed something was afoul on the night of November 16, 2006. It was another "Supersized Thursday!!", where three shows are run at an extended 40 minutes per episode.

That night's episode of The Office (The Merger) seemed to set the pace, as a noticeable component of the plot revolved around a paper shredder. A paper shredder? Yeah. It seemed oddly forced when the emotion-limited Kevin goes on a rant about how much he loves his new paper shredder. When he asked where he got his new toy, Kevin proudly admits it was from Staples. All that was missing was for him to look directly into the camera, wink while an announcer suggests you "Visit your local Staples store for this and even more exciting products!" Immediately following this scene, guess what the very first commercial was for. No. Not just Staples. A familiar looking Staples paper shredder!! They so sneaky.

Ever since, the show has contained even more blatant (is that possible?) plugs for the store. When Dwight gets fired in The Return (1/18/07), guess where his knowledge of office supplies finds him working. If I have to tell you, you aren't paying attention.

And in Business School (2/15/07), Ryan gives a speech to his business class telling them how outdated his employer is. A student literally asks "How can you compete with a company like Staples?" The writers might as well have just gone for it all and said, "... a convenient, high quality, low price store like Staples?"

30 Rock's Tina Fey makes so many pop culture references, it's hard to tell which ones her staff is getting rewarded for. Even the premiere episode (and most since) consisted of a mocking, yet playful mentioning of the network's parent company, General Electric. So blatant that it's still kind of funny, so they get away with it.

You can even expect one or two Star Wars references per episode. (A female lead who is smart, nerdish, yet smokingly hot AND intimate with Star Wars' quotes? Can't imagine what demographic they're going after.)

But the only obvious in-show sponsorship was present during that very same "Supersize Thursday" of November 16. The actual plot of the episode was a network exec pressuring the staff to write product placements into the show-within-a-show. As Fey does her best tongue-in-cheek, she protests to defend the "integrity of the show." Immediately thereafter, she and another character proceed to laud the tastiness of Snapple beverages, while sharing an elevator ride with a man in a Snapple bottle costume. I wonder how many viewers unknowingly responded, "I'm thirsty. I could really go for something tasty. Hey honey? Do we have any Snapple? We could really use some Snapple."

I could literally see Tina and the other producers leaving a meeting with NBC going, "We can't write a Snapple commercial into the show. We have to defend the... integrity... of... the... Gadzooks! I think I've got it!"

I don't really have a strong opinion on this either way. The shows need money to be made. And if a company wants to spot the money, the only pressure is on the writers to make it work comedically. I guess I just wish I could get my hand in on some of the sweet, sweet integrity-free money.

UPDATE: See? Told ya so.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it interesting that other blogger chose to write about the same topic as you on the same day. If you stole this idea from him, linking to his post won't make the plagiarism any better.

    I'm just giving you a hard time. Entertain me more!