It was variation on a not-so-subtle theme last night on NBC that I normally would have missed.
I typically watch The Office, one of my fav shows for the last few years, via the DVR courtesy of Time Warner cable. But last night, through the combination of timing and reruns on other channels, we were watching it live.
There was a sequence where one of the characters was asked to shred a stack of papers. In the mockumentary style of the production, he gushed to the camera about how great his document shredder ("It even shreds my credit cards...")
I remember thinking to myself that the scene seemed a little out of place, and why did they have a big Staples logo on it. My question was answered at the next commercial break, which consisted of a Staples ad. And not just an ad for Staples, but an ad for the very same document shredder used by the cube drone a few minutes earlier (later the same office used the document shredder to make a salad).
NBC followed that up more blatantly in the next half hour with the show 30 Rock, a show-within-a-show comedy about a comedy show. The main plot for the show was the directive from network execs to work product placement into the fictional show.
While the show's cast complained, saying they couldn't sacrifice the integrity of the show for cheap ad dollars, they were busy extolling the great flavor and sexiness of Snapple.
I pondered about what to think of these two examples of product placement marketing. On the one hand, one might feel a bit offended that the content they came for is being bastardized by marketers. On the other hand, that's the model network TV has used for years. It's just that we've grown used to the product being separate from the entertainment content.
On the other hand, I'm glad NBC didn't try to disguise what they were doing. They were essentially making fun of themselves for the blatant product integration. It was almost refreshing.
And I can't blame them. I don't begrudge them their right, obligation really, to make money through advertising. These are two really great, original shows that are worth paying for.
To be honest, because of DVRs people like me rarely watch any commercials anymore, so NBC is obviously trying to solve the Tivo problem. We can look for this to become a continuing phenomenon. I just hope the producers don't become lazy and that the content continues to merit this kind of marketing.
tagged: The Office, 30 Rock, TV, pop culture, NBC, product placement, advertising, marketing, Staples, Snapple, Dwight Schrute