Having fallen off on my American soap viewing, I didn’t know about the new product placement on soaps until I saw the spoof of it on the Colbert Report. I thought he had to be photoshopping the tape somehow to have Sammi extolling the virtues of Chex Mix while in a cozy little scene with some guy. But, I thought, no, Stephen Colbert doesn’t artificially enhance the insanity of something in our society – at least not the original insanity. He may add to it, as he did here with being confronted by his evil twin Pavros (looking more like Stephen Nichols’ “Patch” DOOL character than the evil Stavros of General Hospital). So he, consciously I think, mixes his soaps up to great comedic effect for all of them – especially when he’s shot and protected by his courageous Cheerios box.
So I Goodsearched* for DOOL product placement. It’s true and it’s appallingly awful. And they’re all doing it or going to be doing it, apparently. Even Coronation Street will be engaging officially in product placement as of January 2011.
Coronation Street long has, but perhaps unofficially and unpaid for, on its store shelves. Look at the stock in Dev’s corner shop and you see recognizable food packages. Look at the cigarettes behind the counter in Dev’s and the Kabin. I recognize Silk Cuts among other brands I’ve seen in England. When someone is pouring tomato sauce over their food, you recognize the shape of the bottle even if the hand is over the label. When Peter was swigging from his bottle outside George’s house, it certainly looked like Ballentine’s Scotch to me.
I’ve never minded that: it’s not shoving the product in your face and it makes it look more realistic. I’ve not known if the show was paid for this or not. It seemed to me they ought to be since it is showcasing a particular brand instead of another.
Sometimes I’ve wished to see product placement in American soaps just to make it seem more realistic. Someone says to the bartender “give me a beer” and the bartender walks away and comes back with a beer. The very few times I’ve seen the bartender ask “what kind?” the answer is something like “whatever you’ve got.” You’ve probably got 20 or 40 different kinds at least. If you don’t want to do unpaid product placement, just make up some names. That’s what Coronation Street did with the brewery Newton and Ridley.
American radio serials started with ‘ads’ for soap manufacturer products incorporated into the storyline. Then the ads moved to separate commercial breaks, leaving the storyline to unfold on its own. The division between advertiser and production became clearer as networks or independent production companies, instead of “soap” companies like P&G, increasingly owned soaps. Now with the new product placement on soaps, they are getting back to their roots. And, if this is the only way to keep soaps on the air, well, so be it. But surely it could be done with a bit more finesse than DOOL is showing!
However, DOOL is a lifeforce of its own I often think. For twenty years or so, since the days of James Reilly, DOOL has been over the top in its stories and acting. It’s driven viewers away but it’s also drawn viewers in just to see how bad it can get. So it’s totally fitting that, if product placement is to be done, it’s done on DOOL in the absolute cheesiest fashion possible.