Is history repeating itself with the run-up of paid placements over the last 2-3 years? Today, companies like Apple retain specialists to secure conspicuous placements in hit shows like 24, CSI and The Office to connect with consumers. In one of the more celebrated (and questionable) product placements, HP paid a reported $200K for a subliminal placement in a Jessica Simpson video. (Lewis Black’s rant about this on The Daily Show was priceless.)
Which got me thinking about the inevitability of B to B product and service placements in entertainment media. If my co-workers and I lived in a world of gargantuan egos, bottomless budgets and a mandate to indulge both, where might some of our clients pay to play?
- 24 - Jack Bauer chases a suspected terrorist into the boiler room of a Los Angeles hospital. Cornered, the suspect fires his Glock into a nearby boiler in an attempt to scald Jack in red hot steam. Sparks fly but the bullets fail to penetrate the boiler's outer hull. Cut to Jack flinching momentarily, then shaking his head and laughing. Cut to shaky cam closeup of the boiler's Cleaver-Brooks name plate, with tag line "The power of commitment" prominent. Plant managers, specifying engineers and end-users everywhere immediately recall what the terrorist now knows: nobody makes a better boiler than Cleaver-Brooks.
- Madden NFL '07 - A middle aged man sits in front of his TV in horror as Tom Brady lies writhing in pain on the virtual gridiron. Madden—or is it Frank Caliendo?—says "that kind of knee injury is one of the hazards of the occupation." Suddenly, a team of medical specialists with jackets reading Sensia Health Care is on the field, attending to Brady. In seconds, Brady is back in the game. Says Madden/Caliendo, "Al, that's just further proof that the folks at Sensia go where other occupational medicine and wellness providers can't and don't. They treated Brady like no other. And they're Treating your business like no other."
- War Of The Worlds - As alien killing machines rip through the Hudson Valley, Tom Cruise scurries into a nearly abandoned injection molding plant. Turns out Tim Robbins' creepy character is keeping the presses running, molding plastic squirt guns that can be used to shoot common cold virus at the aliens. But Cruise realizes the mold has reached the end of its life cycle. New tooling must be built—and fast. He calls D-M-E Company and uses D-M-E's QDS (Quick Delivery Specials). In days, Cruise has the mold base he needs to build replacement tooling. (Yes, somehow Cruise knows how to build plastic injection molds.) Using a 650-ton Milacron Powerline injection molding machine, Cruise and Robbins mold thousands of squirtguns. The Powerline's high efficiency power train ensures there are no hydraulic system losses—even as the aliens wreak havoc on the local power grid. Dissolve into slo-mo shot of Cruise and Robbins distributing squirtguns to humans across the northeastern U.S. Cut to Cruise in Boston, returning his kids to his ex-wife, squirt gun in holster, as Robbins looks on. Morgan Freeman's voiceover caps the scene, and the movie: "Just like D-M-E, they were there for us Every step of the way."