TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: On Television, Brands Go From Props to Stars

On Television, Brands Go From Props to Stars

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 2 Oct 2005 17:40:20 -0400


LATER this month on "The Office," Michael Scott, the painfully
clueless regional manager of a paper supply company, will embrace
casual Fridays in his own inimitable style. Eager to show off his
newly trim physique, particularly his backside, the character -- played
by Steve Carell -- will proudly model his new jeans to his alternately
befuddled and appalled employees. And to anyone who will listen, he
will proclaim something along the lines of "I love my new Levi's."

This cringe-inducing bit of comedy will have been made possible in
part by Levi Strauss. The company and the creators of "The Office,"
the NBC critical darling, are willing participants in the next
generation of product placement. No longer are brands mere props on
the set or the supporting stars of reality shows. Advertisers and
their representatives are increasingly working with a show's writers
and producers and the network's ad sales staff to incorporate products
into the story lines of scripted shows as part of more elaborate
marketing deals.

What Hollywood and Madison Avenue euphemistically call "brand
integration" was hard to miss last season. Gabrielle Solis, Eva
Longoria's character on ABC's "Desperate Housewives," found herself
hard up for money and reluctantly agreed to don an evening gown and
extol the virtues of a Buick LaCrosse at a car display. Amanda Bynes's
character on the WB's "What I Like About You" raved about Fruity
Pebbles and competed against a friend to be in the next Herbal
Essences commercial. And the producers of "Bernie Mac" on Fox wove
mentions of Rolaids throughout an episode as they unleashed the
dyspeptic Mr. Mac to rant about life's injustices and his stomach

Network, advertising and production executives say that this season,
more and more brands will venture outside the confines of 30-second
ads. They may have no choice: As technology and clutter blunt the
effectiveness and reach of the commercial spots that have underpinned
the television business for nearly 50 years, the various players are
scrambling to adapt.

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