Brandtique: Miracle Whip

It's no longer enough to slide a product into a show, then reinforce it via a "presented by" billboard leading into a commercial. Nope--marketers must feel that alone runs the risk of missing viewers who hit the kitchen the minute the ad break starts.

So they've taken to inserting the billboard within the show, overlaying it on the bottom of the screen as the action takes place.

Product placement now has a doppelganger in "message placement."

Several years ago, as the DVR boom loomed, NBC's chief Bob Wright was asked if he worried about commercial-skipping drastically impacting business. No, he said--if ad-zapping becomes dominant, commercials will just be placed in the show.

It appears that time is now. No longer is the so-called "lower third" of the screen reserved for network logos or "house promotions." Apparently, it's for sale.

Earlier this summer, an episode of the USA drama "Burn Notice" featured an on-screen "presented by DirecTV" tab in the left corner during a scene.



But that didn't appear in the same scene with product placement--or in that episode's case, an audio mention of the merits of DirecTV's "Sunday Ticket," which was slid into the dialogue earlier. DirecTV opted to give viewers some breathing room between its integrations.

That wasn't the case on the Aug. 7 episode of the occasionally funny "The Bill Engvall Show" on TBS. As a jar of Kraft's Miracle Whip sat on a counter in the background, a bright orange banner emerged corner-to-corner on the bottom of the screen--informing viewers that not only were they watching the comedy, but it was sponsored by the salad dressing/sandwich spread. (The banner appeared again later in a "non-Miracle Whip" scene.)

Kraft wasn't taking any chances that its marketing in the show would be spread too thin. It went for a big dollop all at once.

Still, Kraft appears to have shown some restraint. Another scene, where Engvall's character asks his three children what they want for a school lunch, was tailor-made for an enthusiastic "I want a turkey sandwich with lettuce and Miracle Whip" response. But none of the children mentioned the 74-year-old tangy spread.

Plus, in the scene with the product placement and banner heralding the Miracle Whip backing, the product placement aspect appeared to be carefully thought out and strategically developed by the Kraft side as they carry on their battle against Hellmann's and other mayo brands (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX).

For one, the episode ran during the current back-to-school period, when parents may be thinking about school lunches again. Surely, Kraft hopes they'll consider Miracle Whip for all those turkey sandwiches--and perhaps may even convince them it's a healthier alternative. Miracle Whip is billed as having the same taste as mayonnaise, but with half the fat.

The scene may have had further appeal among sandwich eaters. Teenage character "Trent" (Graham Patrick Martin) bounds down the stairs and delivers the Kraft anti-mayo message.

As his mother preps his sandwich, he heads to the fridge and brings out a jar, placing it on the counter (making sure the label faces the camera), then asks if "instead of mayo, could I have Miracle Whip?"

It's a crafty move, which begs the question: Can't the product placement stand on its own?

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