In the first instance, a Chanel bag played a role in the July 12 episode of MTV's quasi-reality show "The Hills." For the uninitiated, "The Hills" is a spinoff of "Laguna Beach," MTV's big hit with teenage girls. It features "Laguna" star Lauren Conrad's new life as an intern in Los Angeles after she moves up the freeway from the dreamy beach community.
As "Laguna" fans know, Lauren has never wanted for material goods. So it's somewhat surprising that she doesn't have a Chanel bag, although she is only 21. In the recent episode, Christmas is approaching, and Lauren is discussing prospective gifts with her friends. In a slight upset, she doesn't opt for the $14,000 Tiffany bracelet from the Etoile collection, but a more modestly priced Chanel handbag: $1,200 after 20 percent off on bluefly.com.
"I've always wanted a Chanel bag, and it would just be a very merry Christmas," she tells her crew. Big surprise: Boyfriend Jason, another ex-"Laguna Beach" alum, gives her one, and she loves it. Later, she totes it around to a trendy club on New Year's.
Why does the placement work? Lauren. Her charmed life is a big draw for the hordes of teenagers and other young women in the 12-to-24 demo who have followed her from her days as "LC" to her current high life in L.A. For many viewers, a Chanel bag is now on their radar. Whether it's plopping down the credit card or saving from the summer job, Lauren-watchers (worshippers?) are likely in shopping mode.
Some parents, however, may not be so thrilled with Chanel's prominent "Hills" placement. If the younger end of the demographic asks for the "camel leather stamped square baguette" for the holidays, parents will either have to disappoint their daughters or pony up.
Now switch to another luxury marketer's foray into product placement: the appearance of Aston Martin sports dream machines on the hit HBO comedy "Entourage." On the July 9 episode, Hollywood golden boy Vinnie Chase buys the three buddies in his rat pack Aston Martins, thanks to his success in the film "Aquaman." Even for a big star flush with cash, this is no garden variety gift. The three cars carry a collective sticker price of around $500,000, according to Edmunds.com.
The episode proves to be a showcase for the British roadster. The sweet hum of its engine is audible, while its phenomenal handling and speed are evident as the guys spin them around L.A.
Unlike Chanel, however, which probably thought it could move some inventory as a result of its "Hills" appearance, Aston Martin was probably just looking for a lift in public awareness. HBO says it does not engage in paid product placement, but if Aston sells one car because of its "Entourage" display, it gets a $165,000 revenue boost.
While Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Ferrari seem to get a lot of talk as the luxury vehicles of choice among the glitterati, Aston Martin is further down the conversation totem pole. The half-hour "Entourage" episode gave the brand an image boost in that department.
Like Lauren of "Laguna" and "The Hills," the four characters on "Entourage" have an enchanted life: Dining, dating, and driving a pricey car without a care in the world. That's aspirational--a quality at the core of both the Chanel and Aston Martin placements.