Chuck The TV Branded Entertainment


Stop the storyline and sell me some product. But take your chances with what comes next.

Slugging our eyeballs and ear lobes, two heavy-handed branded entertainment messages will now subtract one more person from the already dwindling supply of those watching NBC's "Chuck."

According to my professional scientific survey, my wife may be another in a small stream of people looking to back away from the four-year old critical (but not with the overall public) favorite NBC show.

Her change has to do with a specific branded food product being snarfed down by a character -- while being held hostage -- on a recent episode of the spoofy spy dramedy. Watching an episode with her, I heard an audible groan from the other end of the couch when a Subway sandwich was mentioned and shown.

"That's the second time this has happened recently," she said, meaning the second time in as many episodes she witnessed some product placement not to her liking. The first time, main character Chuck was playing around with all the features of a Toyota minivan.



My wife said this interfered with the action of the storyline as well as her "interaction" and interest in the show. I'm guessing that you branded entertainment professionals would call this kind of placement inorganic.

I know what you are going to tell me -- all the research on branded entertainment has shown few, if any, people abandon a show because of product placement.

Good news, Subway executives: My wife is more pissed with the show's producers than with your fine line of chipotle-laced food products. More good news: We do remember Subway's name in all of this, thus you can keep you nice, high "awareness" numbers intact. But we probably have little-to-no "intent" to run out and buy your sandwich.

That may still be enough for you, Subway. You probably spent $300,000 or so for this mention and visual in "Chuck" -- probably more if it was part of a bigger Subway buy with the network. Ex-NBCer Ben Silverman notes that Subway's marketing efforts "saved" Chuck from cancellation earlier in the show's run. So I guess we should thank you -- up to a point.

So what are we left with? One pissed-off woman, her husband looking to appease her anger, and, if you have been counting, five free marketing mentions in this article for "Chuck" and seven for Subway. Also free of charge -- the grousing message and subtle advice. <

4 comments about "Chuck The TV Branded Entertainment ".
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  1. David Kohlberg from Varick, March 28, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.

    Wayne-I have been reading your blog for some time and appreciate your insights. When i saw those 2 product placements in Chuck it made me almost, almost want to turn off the show. I continue to watch because although it is cheesy, it is entertaining.
    You pointed out that it is the advertisers who saved the show from cancellation, so if it means i have to sit though some product placement so be it! Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Janis Mccabe from jmod35, March 28, 2011 at 5:49 p.m.

    I too was struck by the Subway mentions, but then I decided for myself that "Buy More" (or is it By?) probably wanted to make a clearer connection with another American brand to be thought of as a potentially reality. And then I just thought it was funny and cute. It fit in very much better than a lot of the other promos we've seen in other shows. Possibly, however, they could have limited it to one mention and still have made their point.

  3. Stuart Adams from Swanson Russell, March 28, 2011 at 6:10 p.m.

    Unlike most shows, I think Chuck can get away with the heavy handed branding. Most of the program’s hard core audience knows that Subway helped save it from the chopping block (as you noted), so they are willing to accept the message for what it is. Chuck is also campy enough that you can have a character talk about sandwich ingredients and laugh it off. Had this been House stating that a patient could only be saved through some exotic procedure and a $5 footlong, there would be groans abound.

  4. Richard Monihan, March 29, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.

    LOL. Actually, Stuart, that comment from House may go over VERY well, given his outlandishly dry humor. But I agree with your point.

    I'm less a believer in the idea that the integration works, because I watch how my kids react to it. They are very fast to point it out and comment upon it with disdain. I have had my gamer son comment to me several times that "the amount of brand integration today was stupid, and everyone in the game was pissed about it." (well, not an exact quote, but close enough) The next generation is acutely aware of how marketing and advertising enters their lives and if it's done well, they won't tune it out or consider it intrusive.

    We're not going to get rid of it. But it should be done in a fashion that works and is less "in your face".

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