Apparently, the chain--with 400 locations and roots in a modest Seattle tavern--was rather satisfied with how the placement worked out. Maybe it found that sales rose in areas where "Top Chef" draws high ratings. Or it perhaps it found that employees got a charge out of the role on a popular show.
Whatever the reason, Red Robin--which also claims expertise in shakes--came back for another helping, this month via another NBC Universal network. On the Aug. 8 episode of USA's humorous and breezy "Psych"--a dramedy about a sometimes crime solver with apparent psychic powers--the chain served as the setting for the payoff scene (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX).
Who knows whether the "Double R" will find this year's go-round more profitable. But "Psych's" campiness seems to fit better with its personality than some of the haughtiness of "Top Chef." From its arch "Department of Deliciousness" ad campaign, to its 5 Alarm and Banzai burgers, to the "random acts of kindness" it encourages its employees to bestow, it's clear that Red Robin doesn't take itself too seriously.
And that makes the show and brand a fitting match. So whether it was the network or the burger chain, credit the side that made the first phone call that led to their pairing.
Less credit should go to what the two came up with. Talk about gratuitous product placement. This one could take the cake, or the "Double R's" Mountain High Mudd Pie, as it were.
The Aug. 8 episode is about the search for Spanish gold near Santa Barbara, California. Befitting the show's tongue-in-cheekiness, the episode is titled "The Greatest Adventure in the History of Basic Cable."
And a wild ride ensues as the psychic, his sidekick and his uncle pursue the treasure. It turns out Uncle Jack is looking to take advantage of his nephew's abilities to help him steal away with the gold. When he thinks he has it, he tells his nephew to meet him at Red Robin to reconnect.
Why there? No particular reason, except that viewers are told that's where the pair used to go years ago.
The uncle then speeds away with no intention of going to Red Robin or anywhere else except on a full-speed escape.
With that meeting not happening, however, the episode does make its way to Red Robin. Why there? No particular reason, except the chain gave USA network the dough.
In the scene, the nephew informs his father at a Red Robin table that it was he who pulled a fast one, giving the uncle a bag of rocks and taking the gold himself.
But before that revelation, the scene includes a superfluous close-up of the restaurant's rounded exterior, which is then followed by clear pay-for-play dialogue.
As the psychic sits with a pink shake, his dad approaches and asks, "Strawberry, huh?"
"Ah, you've got to taste it," the psychic responds. He then slides it across the table and dad takes a sip.
"I'd still go vanilla. It's good," dad concludes.
Psychic: "Are you kidding me? That is the best shake on the planet. One part ice cream, two parts awesome!"
Cash register rung, the germane dialogue--critical to the show's climax--returns. It was almost as if a director yelled, "Cut! Commercial's over."
It was not "The Greatest Product Placement in the History of Basic Cable."
High School Musical
Teen Choice Awards 2008