Getting Distracted By Product Placement

This weekend Paramount Pictures released their latest comedy, “Morning Glory,” about aspiring news producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) and her attempts to revitalize “Daybreak,” a failing morning news show. While the movie is memorable enough (mostly because it was written by the same person who penned “The Devil Wears Prada” and has essentially the same plot line), what stuck out the most was its use of product placement.

Apple as product placement in Morning Glory

"Morning Glory's" Becky Fuller trusts Apple's MacBook Pro to get the job done.

One scene was shot in a Staples aisle, making it look like a commercial. Apple’s MacBook Pro gets its fair share of screen time. And let’s not forget about NBC and the “Today” show, Fuller’s job, and what “Daybreak” seems to be modeled after.

"Daybreak" on Morning Glory

Doesn't this remind you a little bit of...

NBC's "Today" show


Yes, the practice of product placement isn’t new. From novels to television, and of course, film, this form of embedded advertising is both a blessing to the companies employing these practices, but a curse to audiences (like myself), whose experience of the film is disrupted each time a new logo or brand is mentioned. The music video (which, for some artists has become a mini-film in itself) is another outlet for product placement, most notably in Laday Gaga’s “Telephone” in all its 9-minute and 32-second splendor.

But how effective is this form of advertising? And how much is too much? Jezebel’s Hortense Smith contemplated these issues and more in her post about the Gagapalooza. She believes that reactions to this would be “generational: some of us will see it as irritating and disappointing, while others probably won’t notice it at all, or will acknowledge its presence but not allow it to sway any future purchases.”

However, other media critics believe any form of advertising is negative. Sut Jhally, a communications professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst and the founder and executive director of the Media Education Foundation believes that today’s hyper-consumerism is selling more than just products — they aim to sell “lifestyle, ideology and sometimes, even war.” In his film “Advertising & the End of the World,” Jhally “forces us to evaluate the physical and material costs of the consumer society and how long we can maintain our present level of production.”

Jhally would certainly have something to say about the ever increasing and unabashedly obvious product placement in the media today. And while some people have a better eye for this “hidden” advertising, there’s no telling when a simple story will turn into a giant ad itself.

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