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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Changes Coming to TV Programming?

Yesterday on Fox News Watch the participants were talking about a coming change to television programs. Next year, our favorite shows may contain plugs for commercial products.

These plugs would be obvious displays of the particular product. We may see, for example, the star of our favorite program drinking Coke or Pepsi, or see in their medicine chest Tums or Viagra. We night hear them order a Budwiser or a Coors in a bar. Or we might notice that they drive a Ford or a Nissan.

News Watch participants commented that this new twist comes for a couple of reasons. One, that sponsors want more exposure than the present format allows, and two that with the increased use and sophistication of recording devices, viewers are able to either skip past the commercials when viewing the program, or just not record them at all. Sponsors feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth.

These plugs would make it possible for viewers to be bombarded with unlabeled “commercial messages,” one guy said, and took the position that this would equate with the subliminal messages that everyone feared would be employed in TV programs and movies some years ago.

But I see positive potential in this idea. I would gladly exchange the two- or three-minute commercial breaks every ten minutes for these plugs. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have the flow of the program broken so often? Instead of a 58-minute program with only 40 minutes of program material, we might end up with 50 minutes or more of program material. In the 1-minute intro, there would be a disclaimer for all the products that were sponsoring the program and that would appear in the program material, and that same disclaimer would run at the end of the show as well. In the middle of the program, we might have one two- or three-minute break for actual commercials so that we could run to the bathroom or get something to nibble on or drink. Maybe it would be a product we saw in the program.

We find all manner of objectionable content in TV shows and movies these days. Under the guise that bad language, sexual situations, violence and such are all natural in real life, producers pepper stories with this type of content, sometimes turning good stories into sordid junk that your kids shouldn’t see. But what is more “real life” than seeing what the characters drive, drink, and take, or where they eat, and what kind of gasoline they use?

I don’t for a minute believe that four-letter words, sex and violence will disappear from our viewing screens, but adding commercial products strategically placed throughout the story isn’t going to make the stories much worse, so long as we are plainly told that we should expect to see the products of specific sponsors who have paid to have their products displayed. And if we lose a few interruptions for actual commercials, is that such a bad thing?

6 comments:

Buffalo said...

Product placement certainly isn't a new concept. As I recall it used to be quite common.

JL Pagano said...

The proof of your pudding will be seen in the last sentence of your post.

IF we lose a few interruptions. I wonder if the suggestion is to replace the ad breaks, or simply add to them throughout the program in question?

Buffalo said...

You know, it could get interesting if they were demonstrating some products.....

James Howard Shott said...

I don't think the suggestion is to replace ad breaks, but that might be a trade-off.

Re: demonstrating products. What did you have in mind?

Bulldog said...

Ever watch Seinfeld? Snapple, J. Peterman, Brentannos... the list goes on

James Howard Shott said...

You're right: it's not a new concept. But the idea seems to indicate a broader application, and who knows, it might just replace a few commercial breaks.