Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 9: Product Placement

You’re watching a sitcom or drama and perhaps two characters are conversing. Then there is a cutaway shot, where you can clearly see the label of a real-life product. Did the sponsors really require that? Most likely yes.

A talk show is on and it’s during the early segment. A host flashes his/her jewelry, abruptly mentions a brand name. (Star Jones, I’m looking at you.) The host takes a selfie with a particular product in the shot. This may or may not be staged — or even allowed by the producer.

These are a few examples of product placement and they may be clever or just plain annoying.

Where Product Placement Started

Product placement has had its origins before the age of television. The earliest example might be in novels, as Jules Verne was lobbied by transport and shipping companies to be mentioned in the serial installments of Around the World in Eighty Days. Early movies displayed products. Radio hosts would pause to promote their sponsors. Soap operas were created with the use of detergent sponsors in mind. Some of the earliest TV shows would use the same format as the radio hosts.

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