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  

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