The greatest number of product placements are in reality programs, and last year Nielsen says "The Contender" was heads above every other show with 7,514, almost double its nearest rival in total occurrences.
But on a per-episode basis, the numbers were more alarming. For each of the 15 telecasts, "Contender" had a whopping average of 500.9 individual occurrences of products placed in its shows. The next in line was "American Idol"-- but it was way down that list, with an average of just 83.3 product occurrences per show. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" had a total of 3,318 occurrences in 73 telecasts for an average of 45.5 product occurrences.
These shows are hour-long series--for the most part. ("Idol" also has a half-hour "results" show). Considering each show typically also airs 18 30-second commercials, that's a lot of total commercial messaging. For "Contender," product placement messaging was almost 30 times that of traditional commercial messaging.
Of course, these are general occurrences. Specific products like Everlast Apparel and Everlast Sports Goods were mentioned many times within any specific episode. As a matter of fact, of all product placement products, Everlast Apparel was fourth and Everlast Sporting Goods was ninth among all brands in 2005. This placed Everlast among the big heavy hitters of traditional big media paid spending-- Coca-Cola Classic, GMC Trucks, Chevrolet Trucks, Ford Autos, and Ford Trucks.
A large number of product occurrences will have Federal regulators looking for blood--wanting to slow down or even regulate the business. Over 500 product messages or even 100 messages or 50 messages for an individual episode could make for problems. For marketers themselves, this should be cause for concern. How much product placement messaging do they want in one specific show? Surely, if boxers are wearing workout clothing, they'll have logo-ed apparel. Boxing gloves and ring mats will also have logos. Big numbers might not matter there.
But at 500 times an hour, how many times do you need to get hit in the head?