So, what in-program advert ruined your enjoyment today?

I quite like the TV show ‘Bones’ – I typically watch it online or via boxset (having long since given up any effort to align my watching habits with fickle broadcast schedules.)

But the recent Avatar shill? My God.

I don’t want to even write about it – someone else luckily has done a decent job for me:

Now, commercials I can ffwd past.

In-show adverts – like you get with a number of online networks like Revision3  ( or with the show Chuck – I can tolerate, as it’s obvious that it’s an advert. That’s the horrible price you just have to pay for some of these shows.

But when the plot is warped to fit in an unnecessary shill, for a film that has already had millions spent on it, saturating every other bit of media that exists and saturating our news channels, gaining yet more free advertising… that’s too much.

Fuck Avatar.

If you like to stare brain-dead at a big screen, if you are impressed by blue, anthropomorphic sex-kittens, or you’ve always thought that if you just dumbed down the plot behind Dances with Wolves and set it in space, it would rock, then you might enjoy Avatar. Or you could be in that crowd of people for whom watching 2 hours of shiny-things-that-move is a great night out.

So, I’m going to avoid buying or watching any program that includes Avatar and I certainly won’t be buying or renting the film.

What’s the last program that riled you up for doing something similar? I hear ‘Heroes’ is ripe with obnoxious placement…

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

James Henry (writer of ‘Green Wing’) posts about product placement

This is the post that led to me thinking about how to fight this – it is fantastic to see his point of view as a writer and he concisely lays out the problems placement causes and retorts against the current arguments for why product placement is ‘okay’.

I strongly recommend reading this and the comments that follow it!

In fact, for all those lazy people who can’t be bothered to click on a link (please read it at his site), here is a small part of that post, on why “It makes for worse television”: [emphasis my own]

It makes for worse television. If you think product placement means advertisers and PR firms come crawling pathetically to the programme-makers, begging to have a scene where the main characters all have breakfast include a jar of their savoury yeast product appear with the label at least half-facing the camera, think again.

These people see their brands as characters in themselves. They want their products to be mentioned as having specific virtues, and as being objects of wild aspiration. Which means scenes like The Cheerleader One in Heroes becoming hugely, yet somehow unconvincingly enthusiastic about her dad giving her what is, to all intents and purposes, a rather dull saloon car (although one curiously out of the price bracket those characters could afford), which she, of course, mentions by name. While jumping up and down excitedly. And she can regenerate from nuclear explosions, so we are supposed to take it this is a very exciting car indeed. Which it isn’t.

Meanwhile, the two Japanese blokes get equally excited about being able to rent another car of the same make for their journey – and of course, we know (or should guess) that during that journey nothing bad is going to happen to them in said car, like a breakdown, or a crash, or anything that might reflect even slightly badly on the manufacturers, so there goes any narrative tension for that part of the story.

And as a writer, it’s bad enough having to run storylines and dialogue past script editors, producers, lawyers, broadcast company (or network) executives and legal departments. But now we have to run them past PR departments and advertisers? Bleurgh.

I think James hits the nail on the head when he talks about trust, and how product placement can blow away the trust needed for the viewer to immerse themselves in the story.

This is something we need to do something about. Sharpish.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anti-what now?

“Upon noticing product placement in a tv show, I pledge not to buy that product for a month.”

A noticed product placement is one which has been shoehorned into the plot somehow, where aspirational characters (hunks, models, etc) gush lovingly about it or where the products themselves are never seen to fail or be sub-par especially when we know the product is a pile of crap:

‘But I’m in the UK, haven’t we got regulations against this?’

We have regulations, but we might not have them for much longer. From (Feb 9 2010)

Product placement is to be allowed on British TV shows, in a move due to be announced next week.

Independent broadcasters will be allowed to take payments for displaying commercial products during shows.

BUT there’s light at the end of this tunnel (in the same article):

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw is expected to announce a three-month consultation on the changes in a speech to the Royal Television Society next week.

I’m open to any suggestions about how we can get our objections heard.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment