Brandtique: Biggest Loser,' Motorola

An episode of "Boston Legal" next week promises to include an example of what on the surface is a quizzical product placement. Texas-based Cowboy Outfitters, which markets western gear, announced Thursday that shirts from its collection will be worn by characters in the Oct. 27 episode of the legal drama.

Apparently, the characters played by James Spader and William Shatner decide to head out to a Utah Dude Ranch, and while there, don Cowboy Outfitters' shirts. "We are obviously very pleased that ABC and 'Boston Legal' (have) chosen to wear our clothing on the highly rated show," said company president John Adams.

Obviously, Cowboy Outfitters didn't pay for the opportunity. And who knows whether anyone will recognize what Shatner is wearing. But it still made for a nice publicity opportunity.

Contrast the quiet boastfulness of the western-wear dealer with the overbearing integration that Motorola offered up in a recent episode of "The Biggest Loser," which this season has a family component.



The show has never been muted with its product placements. Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels--the two trainers on the program, where teams compete to shed the most weight--seem to have little compunction about exercising their skills as pitch-people.

But they could use some training on how to finesse the fine line between subtle, yet effective promoter and all-out shill. Michaels played the unfortunate latter for Motorola on the Oct. 7 episode.

Some background: Motorola has rather cleverly linked with the show this season to offer podcasts--billed as "Motorola Wireless Workouts"--that can be downloaded and listened to as a virtual coach during a workout. When marketers talk about looking to their media agencies to come up with "ideas" rather than simply recommending avenues for exposure, this would seem to be the type of concept they're looking for.

In Motorola's case, the aim is simple: it's hoping the podcasts will promote principally its new line of headphones that fall under its ROKR brand. A slew of mobile phones, which are compatible with iTunes downloads, fall under the ROKR flag--and the company has just introduced the new MotoROKR S9 headset.

It's touted as the crème de la crème of headphones. "At barely an ounce and very discreet ... (it's) music to your ears with a wearing style that will make you forget you have them on," Motorola says. "Probably lighter than your sunglasses, delight yourself and enjoy!"

The headset is wireless with what's called "high-definition surround sound." Motorola says it's "the perfect workout partner."

That's where trainer Michaels comes in on the show (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX). The scene sets up with one contestant lacking a partner. And Michaels offers her the would-be solution: a "Wireless Workout" downloaded on a ROKR phone to be listened to on an S9.

It's a pretty standard product plug as reality shows go these days. But Michaels' delivery makes it hard to think she's anything but a hired hand.

"I created a Motorola Wireless Workout for you and I downloaded it on your ROKR," she tells the contestant, holding up the phone as if she's wearing a Best Buy blue shirt.

"And now you're going to be able to listen to it on your MotoROKR S9 wireless headset."

Not exactly colloquial language. Do people say, "Honey can you put some carrots in the Cuisinart SmartPower Premier 600-Watt Blender?"

Moving on, Michaels tells the contestant to try on the S9. And as she does, the camera offers a closeup and pans around her head to show the comfort level. It looks snug.

But for viewers looking for "product placement free reality TV," it's a bad fit.






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Click here to view these placements. Data and analysis provided by iTVX.
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