Brandtique: BMW, 'My Super Sweet 16'
Episodes where teens seek--and receive--a spectacular, sparkling BMW, Porsche, maybe even a Maserati, at times turn into essentially infomercials for the cars.
However, it is questionable whether it's responsible marketing, even though the car companies may not have a choice in the matter.
The show's premise is following a teen in the run-up to a sweet 16 party, notably trying to persuade parents to fork out jaw-dropping amounts of cash. And frequently, the young lady wishes to begin driving with not even a Volvo or VW, but something an oil baron tools around in.
So the cameras follow the teen to the dealer, where she zeroes in on a beatific car and asks a parent for it. That scene offers car marketers publicity it would be tough to pay for.
There are multiple shots (better than catalogs) of the shiny cars taken from multiple angles, including close-ups of the Porsche or BMW logo. And often, a salesperson plugs the benefits of the vehicles and is more than willing to help. Then there's the teen who usually sits in the driver's seat, inhaling the new-car smell and otherwise expresses waves of excitement.
And it's all gratis. MTV says the car companies don't pay a cent for the exposure. The teens and parents decide which cars to kick the tires on--and the parents, not the producers, decide whether to make the purchase.
That's where it gets thorny. While MTV does as effective a job of promoting the cars as a video news release would, it's dubious whether that's a complete slam dunk for--say--BMW.
It seems that at any time, a Coalition of Concerned Parents Against MTV (if such a group doesn't yet exist) might mount a charge against the automakers impugning them for planting the idea in an impressionable teen's head about what she can expect for a Sweet 16. And what about the message about values and priorities that's sent? Is that top-notch corporate citizenship? After all, MTV's target audience goes as young as 12, the parents might argue.
That said, MTV says it plays no role in which cars teens want, and what parents are willing to spend--so it may be out of a car company's control. But it's hard to believe that a huge marketer couldn't threaten to yank paid advertising elsewhere in a bid to convince MTV to keep it off the show.
Still, perhaps teenage viewers should be given more credit for their ability to distinguish between the guilty-pleasure, fantasy-worlds presented on a slew of MTV shows--and reality. MTV would certainly argue that.
Back to "Super Sweet 16." It's not much of a show if Dad doesn't come through with the splendid roadster, so the beyond-fully-loaded ride seems to always wind up later in the show at the party--often with a bow on top, to the teen's unbridled exuberance.
That excitement is understandable, of course. Who wouldn't want a $96,000 Jag at 16, as "Cher" received in the Jan. 5 episode? ("Cher" passed on the $36,000 entry-level sedan.)
On the Feb. 12 episode, it wasn't a young lady with a star singer's name, but Ariel who covets a BMW. In pattern, she takes her Dad to the dealer and gushes over a new model so shiny it might glow in the dark.
After the cameras provide a 360-degree view and close-up of the BMW emblem (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX), she sits behind the wheel and is at once sure it's what she needs to improve her final years of high school.
Her dad does put up some resistance, but it's hardly convincing. "What have you done to deserve a brand-new car? Let me tell you, you sure do want a lot," he says.
Still, Ariel seems to imply that she just won't make it to senior year without it. "Come on, dad, get with the program," she says.
That's actually a double entendre since she could just as well mean the program, as in "My Super Sweet 16."
True to form, at Ariel's actual party, the car arrives with a bow on top, and if it didn't look impressive enough, it's augmented by some on-screen sparkles courtesy of MTV production.
Reflecting on the bash later, Ariel says, "I got my Beamer ... My party was perfect, I got everything that I wanted and more."
A week before Ariel's splendid delivery, the Feb. 5 "Sweet 16" featured "Erin" seeking a Porsche Cayenne.
"I have no budget for my car," she says. "I'm just going to find whatever I like and my mother's going to get it."
When told by the dealer that her dream vehicle costs $51,000, she's absolutely shocked ... at how low the price is. "I actually thought it was going to be more--that's like cheaper than what I expected," she says.
Later in the show, unsurprisingly, she gets what she calls "the best present ever."
"Cher" has a similar reaction when she gets her new ride: "This is the absolute best night of my life."
So, she'll ask for a paperweight for college graduation?