I love a good game of I spy, especially when it combines two of my favorite things — pop culture and marketing. That’s why I relish any opportunity to spot ads in movies and TV. I’m not talking about obvious commercial interruptions. I’m talking about ads that have either been woven into the storyline, à la an entire scene taking place in IKEA, or subtly integrated, like Coca-Cola cans scattered throughout “Stranger Things.”
As networks and streaming services aim to provide premium commercial-free experiences, product placement continues to fill the gap created by a lack of traditional advertising. When I watch “The Mindy Project” on Hulu, for example, I pay a monthly fee to enjoy it without disruption. While this protects me from a barrage of commercials, I still notice everyone exclusively using Microsoft devices and Mindy enjoying a Big Mac while discussing her latest dilemma.
Product placement can also act as a parody within a storyline, which is genius when done correctly. In this example, characters of NBC’s “30 Rock” discuss the downfalls of placing products in their TV show while simultaneously selling hard for network sponsor Snapple:
And most of us probably remember “Wayne’s World” taking product placement parody to the big screen. This classic scene cleverly juxtaposes selling with selling out to create a ridiculously productive commercial:
But is it effective? There are very few ways to accurately gauge just how influential product placement can be. But it’s safe to assume that the higher the ratings or the bigger the box office smash, the more persuasive the placement.
As we continue to evolve into refined media consumers, we can expect products to be more cleverly woven into storylines. And although a future of commercial-free entertainment is promising, truly ad-free experiences are merely a dream — for now.