The Case For And Against Branded Entertainment Comes To A 10 p.m. Drama
The question of whether or not to offer product placement is often on the minds of 10 p.m. network show producers. Maybe they also think about how theatrical movies handle this issue -- especially when it comes to fictional versions of public figures.
In an episode of "The Good Wife" titled "Net Worth," which CBS telecast last week, the show's fictional Chicago law firm takes on a case involving a movie studio's production of a film about a young entrepreneur named Patrick Edelstein who built a very big Internet company -- like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in the movie "The Social Network." Indeed, in the episode, law firm partner Diane Lockhart even says Edelstein could be the next Zuckerberg.
Seems that Edelstein wants to sue the movie company for "defamation" -- something historically very hard to prove. Then law partner Will Gardner decides to go about it a different way. Instead of focusing on defamation, he focuses on product placement, another way in which a studio might capitalize on a public figure.
The story line says some 23 branded entertainment deals were done for the fictional film. For the general TV audience, that seems a little too inside. Still, it's kind of cool.
But there doesn't seem to be judgment here -- which brings me to branded entertainment deals in "The Social Network."
According to Brandchannel.com, 51 brands appeared in "The Social Network." Here's the long list: Adidas, Apache, Apple, Arm & Hammer, Boston University, Brooks Brothers, Cadillac, Cambridge University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dell, Disney, Exeter Academy, Facebook, Friendster, Gap, Google, Harvard University, LiveJournal, London School of Economics, Macy's, match.com, Microsoft, Mountain Dew, MySpace, Napster, Network Solutions, New England Patriots, NFL, Nike, Oxford University, Patagonia, Philips, Polaroid, Polo Ralph Lauren, Porsche, Range Rover, Red Bull, Samsung, Sony VAIO, Stairmaster, Stanford University, The Harvard Crimson, The North Face, The Unlimited, Thirsty Scholar, Tower Records, Ty Nant, Under Armour, Victoria's Secret, Yale University.
To be fair, there are many types of product placement/branded entertainment situations. Sometimes, prop masters just go and buy the products. Other times, the prop masters work with marketers who give them free products or services, especially cars. And there are also big marketing deals involving big media dollars that help tout the TV show or film.
All this isn't just for money; many times it gives the production a nice dose of realism.
The crucial piece of the case in "The Good Wife" came from an ex-branded entertainment executive who placed a couple of car product integrations in the movie because Edelstein's name was attached to the film's publicity. This was key. The lawyers linked the studio to wrongfully using a real-life entrepreneur's name to gain commerce.
That wasn't the end of things. The branded entertainment executive threw in his own kicker: "It was between this movie and 'Social Network.'" Real products in real times, and a bit of brand exposure in a big 10 p.m. CBS drama.