Profit is the bottom line for merchandising. It is often the same thing for television programming. The common denominator for this has been commercials. However, technology has made it possible to allow the viewer to skip those commercials. Some options such as DVR, Hulu, and Netflix do not necessarily even include the commercials. These innovations needed to have a counter response from advertisers. An idea to keep the product front and center was product placement. Products are incorporated into the actual television show. Product placement in television and film affects the enjoyment of the viewer and distracts from the show’s content.
Product placement is not new for media. The film, E.T., shows the children using Reese’s Pieces to lure the alien out of hiding. It is now being used more frequently to lure the viewer into purchasing. According to “New Trends in Product Placement” by Lilia Gutnik, Tom Huang, Jill Blue Lin, and Tom Schmidt, “product placement is being shaped by new technologies such as digital television (DTV), digital recording (DVR), and linking of products” (2). Television may be advancing, but products still need to be sold. Large amounts of money are at stake. In 2005, product placement was worth $4.2 billion (Gutnik et al 3). New ideas in programming have been developed that help the bottom line for the companies, but may not be in the best interest of the viewer.
American Idol is one of the first big hits of interactive media (Jenkins 343). The idea was that a large field of contestants would finally be weeded down by viewer votes to one winner. The fact that viewers voted ensured an audience for the show itself. “Many more people watch the series than try out; many more try out than make the air; many more make the air than become finalists” (Jenkins 349). The ‘what if’ question hangs in the air; maybe it could be me. The only request the companies make is to deal with the product placement. It does not, in the programmer’s eyes, distract from the show. The singers appear, even if they wait in a Coke red waiting room. The judges still make caustic remarks and then wet their throats with a Coke. (Jenkins 350) But viewers find it hard to concentrate. Even the popular interactive show, America’s Got Talent, resorts to product placement. Snapple, one of the sponsors, is the drinking choice of the judges. Nick Cannon, the show’s host, does a promotional spot, offering viewers the chance to design a Snapple cup that will be seen on the show. The viewers and the acts yet to perform must wait through this during the ad.
Many seasons the voting was tight on American Idol. AT&T, another sponsor, pushed viewers to call or text to vote (Jenkins 357). This was not done out of the goodness of their hearts. The company wanted the viewer’s patronage. People watching the show tuned in to see a field of singers, ranging from excellent to pitiful, compete against each other. The votes narrowed the...