Just a quick link to this Yahoo article on the use of “digital product placement” on the show Yes, Dear. In a recent episode of the show watched by millions of people (I’ll get to that in a minute), a box of Kelloggs crackers was digitally painted onto a coffee table.
This practice is a relatively obvious response to the emergence of TiVo and other devices that allow viewers to skip commercials as advertisers continue to seek visibility for their brand images. And I’d like to note that I’m not really that interested in whether such practices are as “effective” as commercials themselves, although I think it does contribute to the commodification and branding of all (virtual) space in ways that I don’t entirely welcome, naturalizing the presence of these brands and logos in our daily lives.
Perhaps what is most disturbing about this new practice is that it allows greater flexibility in terms of allowing brand images to be “altered or replaced when the show goes into reruns and off-network syndication.” Thus, just as Spielberg was able to digitally edit out the threatening guns in ET, TV producers could re-sell that spot on Yes, Dear’s coffee table when the push to sell Kelloggs crackers has passed. In that sense, there is the potential for a weird de-historicizing of the TV image so that the stars of that show might handle products that didn’t exist when the show originally aired.
At the same time, I have to admit that I’m a little less alarmed by this news than I ought to be. After all, product placement is not an uncommon practice already, and sitcoms or TV shows such as Yes, Dear, are already so unreal that using digital technologies to insert a product into the sitcom world doesn’t seem that shocking. I think I’m more alarmed by the fact that “millions” of people watch Yes, Dear.
Update: Lost Remote has more information, including a photograph of the digitally-included product.