Friday, November 28, 2008

Product Placement

If I could choose one thing that I feel has dominated the collective American Psyche for the past century, I would choose commercial advertising (all mediums). Our entire culture shifted when the admen found the best media possible to get their suggestive voice into everyone's homes: television. We are once again on the same threshold of shifting advertising culture, as the internet evolves and advertising embraces its cheapest venue to date.

Television, and television shows, just like their radio predecessors, originally had one purpose: to sell products. Sure they entertain you, but they simply exist to provide something stimulating enough between commercial breaks, that consumers (or as they are also known, humans) don't get up and do something else. If you think it's the other way around, you are probably part of their prime demographic base. Thanks to the advertising agencies, we have been fortunate to have been given some real gems over the past sixty years of television, and the future looks digitally bright (and in High Def). 

It's no secret that your good friends over at Proctor and Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive sponsored midday radio serials targeted at a mostly female audience, starting in the late 1930s, some of which continued onto television, as a means to peddle their soap products to housewives. One of these 'soap operas', Guiding Light, has been on since 1937, making it the longest story ever told. 

In the Nineties, more so than in decades past, Big Advertising got wise that many young people (a prime demographic chunk, Generation X, was becoming a powerful consumer base) were going to movies, and we saw the rise of product placement (Subway in Coneheads, Ford Explorers in Jurassic Park, etc.). Product placement, or embedded marketing, has been around for decades, but for the last two, it has become so blatant, that some movies have used it for comedic effect through outright parody, such as Wayne's World, or as a back handed attack at the advertising industry as a whole, such as Minority Report. Kevin Smith uses it very well to promote the farcical products that give cohesion to the world in which his carachters live, through faux products he has created, like the Mooby fast food chains, Nails Cigarettes, and Discreto Burritos. Product placement is a part of our society, and is probably here to stay. 



Anyway, the reason why I'm even thinking about this has to do with this week's episode of Top Chef. Top Chef is sponsored by brands that are common in American homes: Glad, GE, Kenmore, Swanson, and a host of other food, and appliance companies, as well as Food and Wine magazine. It is a great vehicle for product placement, having a large audience of foodies, food lovers, chefs, and potheads (none of these things are in any way mutually exclusive); people who buy stuff. What caught my eye, was what they were drinking in the storeroom. In the past, I've been angered -- which is pretty dumb -- by the beers that were being drank in the storeroom. Since the brands are obviously sponsors it made sense to me, but it was generally crap. Last season I think it was Michelob, with several scenes of people drinking Michelob Ultra, which from any beer connoisseur's perspective, is a crime against the entire history of brewing beer, and not fit for human or consumer consumption. Dos Equis had the storeroom a few years back, which is also crap in bottle. Syrupy nonsense deemed exotic because it's from Mexico. This year, however, they may have redeemed themselves.

No other than New York's own Brooklyn Brewery was getting some screen time. Brooklyn Brewery makes decent, craft brewed beer, and is not a major player on the national level like Michelob, or even Dos Equis. Brooklyn Brewery beer only recently came to Texas, and has received mixed reviews from my circle of zymurazzi. I sort of like the East India Pale Ale, it snuck up on me when I last had it, but for an American IPA it was subdued, and true to the original idea, except for the 6.8% ABV. British IPA's usually have a bit lower alcohol percentage (3.8% - <5%>

Despite not being the biggest fanboy of this brewery, I really got a kick out of seeing it on Top Chef. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy for some reason; that the consumer portion of my deranged mind felt the tinge of familiarity with the product, and that sense of "I drink that, too..." washed over me. It made me want a beer, even though it was seven in the morning, which means that the advertising worked. 

3 comments:

aa said...

Zymurgy is definitely the coolest word I've learned today.

Flapjacks said...

yeah. it's a great one. charlie papazian is the lord of Zymurgists in America.

Shadd Scott said...

Brooklyn BC makes a bomber that looks like Fireman's 4, but has a big number one on it. I will investigate.

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