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Wonderfully Awful: Advertising in the Age of Tivo


a blog by Robin Rosenzweig

tivologomanRemember a time not so long ago when watching television meant sitting through all of the commercials? Indeed, the pookah-pookah-pookah convenience of TiVo has been life and television habit-changing for many of us. But like most things in life, that convenience has come with a price.

If you have a TiVo or a similar digital video recorder, it’s likely that you spend little if any time watching commercials. Why would you, when you can easily just start watching your show twenty minutes after it starts and then just fast forward through them all (with the aforementioned perky pookah-pookah-pookah sound that comes with it) just to have the highly intuitive device jump to five seconds before the show resumes once you press play. But if you’re not watching the commercials, how are these advertisers selling their products? Simply put, advertisers are using the shows themselves to show their wares, and they’re using methods that are more and more smack-you-in-the-face obvious with each passing day.

Of course, product placement in television and movies is nothing new. It’s how these products are now being placed these days that has become bit unsettling. I saw the beginnings of this back when Alias was still on. In one scene where heroine Sydney Bristow and her associate were in pursuit of some nefarious character, one of them blurted out something along the lines of, “Quick…to the F-150!” followed by a quick shot of the Ford F-150 logo. At that time, I thought that mention was a tad cheesy. But that was only the beginning.


AMC's Adam Chandler

Now when I watch the new 90210…and yes, I watch the new 90210…I’m inclined to think that Beverly Hills is run by the Dr. Pepper mafia. Just take one look at the beloved Peach Pit restaurant, site of many good times back in the original series. Now, you may as well call it the Dr. Pepper Peach Pit, Brought to You by Dr. Pepper…Now Featuring Dr. Pepper! Methinks Peach Pit proprietor Nat should be ashamed of himself!

The worst of this new trend can be seen in the worst of television: soaps. Not only do we see blatant product placement in these shows, but they actually have the characters talking about the products. On All My Children, I witnessed ruthless titan Adam Chandler discussing the health benefits of Prego Heart Smart Sauce.

tyson-anytizers-boneless-chicken-wyngs-1On Days of our Lives, when Lucas Horton was in the hospital, his girlfriend Chloe brought him a Redbook magazine. They went on to discuss whether or not Redbook was for the ladies, with Chloe explaining the reasons why men would and should enjoy the magazine. And just a couple weeks ago, in a scene at a bar, proprietor Max put out a plate of appetizers. Girlfriend (and niece, but that’s for another blog) Chelsea inquired about what exactly the delicious niblets were that she was enjoying. Max’s reply: why they’re Tyson’s Anytizers! He followed that up by showing the box to both her and the camera. I have heard rumors of a Midol product placement set up similarly to these with a couple female characters discussing their cramps and the relief of said cramps. Unfortunately, I missed that episode.

Remember the days when a character would sidle up to a bar and order a beer…and then be served some nameless brew? Ah yes, those were the good ol’ days. That said, if I had to trade in my TiVo to get that back, well, you can forget it. I’ll take the shameless shilling if it means I can keep my pookah-pookah-pookah.