I have yet to see all of season three of “House of Cards” but the coverage of it has been breathtaking. What’s the most disturbing moment so far? asks The Washington Post, putting a shot clock on Netflix that it could never put on Congress. With spoiler alerts popping up like dandelions in May, I think I’m going to have to finish viewing quickly so I can read past the third paragraph of almost everything written since Friday.
And yet, bingeing on episodic television seems so unremarkable. It’s not the Ring Cycle, after all, and Frank and Claire Underwood are no Wotan and Fricka.
Among the breathless accounts of season three was a story on CNN.com’s Website with the show’s creator, Beau Willimon, who credited “House of Cards” with causing a “paradigmatic shift in the way that people consume their entertainment” because episodic drama now doesn’t have to be the same length episode by episode, nor viewed in only single bits of drama. While this forgets that HBO has been doing the irregular-length thing for some time now, he's got a point about how "House of Cards" is being regarded.
In the same week that old, episodic television’s “Modern Family” did a half-hour review of iPod, Facetime, Facebook and the whole social media scene, “House of Cards” re-emerged with its own, very unrevolutionary brand of product placement.
The official binge beers of “House of Cards” are Budweiser, Stella Artois and Shock Top from Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Samsung electronics will be in plain view, according to Advertising Age.
Stella Artois was in season two, also, and Ad Age reported that, remarkably, an unsavory journalist was shown drinking a bottle. How that could be good for the brand...well! A brand spokesman basically said the beer maker would object if the the imbiber was clearly beyond redemption. By inference, that means journalists, despite what your eyes and ears tell you, do have upscale potential.
This kind of product placement really is becoming kind of old school, from back when products that showed up on “Seinfeld” were noteworthy. Frank Underwood has already shilled for regular cigarettes and vapes, PlayStation and Dunkin’ Donuts. The Los Angeles Times listed a guide of sorts to suspiciously occurring products; it’s the only such list I’ve seen that included pork, the kind you actually eat, not the kind actually peddled in Washington.
The much newer way of advertising within content is to be the content, which eliminates the possibility that your product will ever be seen in the wrong light. That sort of content is the future that is actually the present and today, CBS Interactive launched Studio 61 to create “custom content” for “marketing partners” that will show up on all of its many visited site.
Wrote MediaPost’s Wayne Friedman this morning, Studio 61 will produce material including “short- and long-form video, social-media content, infographics and custom data integrations” for advertisers” and that’s just a good, practical idea that that recognizes how the difference between content and advertising is just about nil. If we’re going to binge, we’re going to be bingeing on advertising, which is either a satisfying situation, or not.