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The Product of Placement

1 Nov, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

Last week found me ranting about devaluing DVD as a commercial product by giving them away to sell something else. Makes them seem like cereal box premiums. But there is a potential business model.

Making DVD a commercial party favor opens up even more opportunities for product placement deals. While it might be hard to sneak a box of Tide into a galaxy far, far away, it wouldn't be a problem at all to put a particular brand of soda, magazine or crackers into a scene in Madagascar. Or a brand of condoms in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The possibilities are nearly endless.

At that point I suppose you could give DVDs away and still make money, as long as you made more on the product placements than you spent on the film. My colleague Jessica Wolf recently opined that, like much of the American public, relevant product placements don't bother her.

I would counter that that's because we have only scratched the surface of product placement. I agree with her that seeing a real soda brand in an actor's hand can make the show more realistic than some obviously phony, generic soda can. But when the entire show becomes a stream-of-subconsciousness advertising, it will move from unobtrusive to annoying.

It's tough to tell how much, but eventually making the movie into a feature-length commercial will wear thin with consumers and, I think, cut into sales. Already I have a couple of friends who don't have TVs in their homes. In at least one case, the friend won't have a TV because of the commercial influence on her elementary-school-age sons.

I think there is a big backfire waiting in the distance. How big will depend on how fast we get there. If one day you are giving all of your DVDs away because they were never anything more than ads for something else to begin with, don't say I didn't warn you.

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