***There are no spoilers in this blog***
I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I am one of the 670,000 Americans who tuned into watch the entire third season of House of Cards this past weekend. I’m a binge watcher, and whoever recently said binge watching is “so last year” is so wrong. As a consumer, I’m thrilled that I don’t have to wait seven days in between episodes. But as a marketer, I miss the ads that interfere with my favorite shows during a non-binge session (aka traditional channel surfing). So, as a compromise: enter intelligent product placement.
Product placement has been around for decades, including in my second favorite Drew Barrymore flick, E.T. (Reese’s Pieces anyone?). But since the proliferation of video streaming services and content creation kings, like Netflix — brands have had to become more creative to get their products in front of their targets. Product placement in our favorite shows (and movies) is a careful practice. Brands and the writers of the show walk a fine line so as not to be too obvious or intrusive, but also not go unnoticed.
House of Cards was impressive — not just in the writing, the outstanding acting and jaw dropping cliff hangers — but in the sense that some brands made delicate and smart debuts. We saw brands like Buick, Acer, Nokia, Samsung and even Blackberry (really?), in lieu of the traditional ads that we don’t see on Netflix. Variety reported on Friday that some of these brands didn’t pay for play, but they did provide the production teams with ample product on set and prop teams with product to dress the sets. These cameos didn’t feel forced or overdone, despite some articles I’ve read the past few days.
Here’s the thing: I’m not mad and you shouldn’t be either. I’d rather see these brands sharing the stage with my favorite actors. I’d rather see Buick and GMC, than a car with a generic, fake emblem. One of 40 cell phones shown was a Blackberry (this fact is fabricated, but nonetheless, a fair and educated guess). Frank Underwood is officially America’s last remaining Blackberry user. Product placement makes the show feel more realistic, believable. The placements felt natural. And it’s representative of the world we live in. That much is real life. And as much as we all hope the Capitol isn’t anything like what we saw in “Cards,” it’s tempting to fantasize about the actual evils that lurk behind those ivory walls. And maybe the Chief of Staff does actually drive a Buick in his personal time.
Now, when does Season 4 come out?
What’s your take on the product placement in today’s media? Let us know @MowerAgency.