How do we understand reality TV within the context of the increasing commercialization
of popular culture (you might think of product placement and advertisement within
In today’s entertainment world, it’s hard not to be bombarded with advertisements. You might think of the typical one minute commercials in between suspenseful T.V. shows, but there’s another kind of advertisement. It’s called product placement. This is where the product advertised, it not in a commercial, but placed in the T.V. show itself. Have you seen examples?
In many reality shows today, you’ll find dozens of product placements spread here and there. In the reality show American Idol, the judges drink their refreshments from the company Coca-Cola. The show is also sponsored by the car company, Ford. You see many times in the results show for American Idol, that the contestants filmed a group music video together – in the back, Ford cars are neatly placed, or many times, the contestants are driving the cars. Very cleverly placed. And lastly, have you every noticed that Ryan Seacrest always always points out that AT&T customers can vote using their text messages for each contestant? Coincidence? I think not.
What does this mean? This isn’t just product placement that cleverly popped into reality shows. All the time, the product companies sit down with the reality show creators to plan out how the product advertised will be placed before film the show. This means that the product companies have in how the show goes. The fundings for reality shows don’t come from just the television company. A huge percentage is from the sponsoring product company.
These product companies control what they want the viewers to see. If they want to advertise a drink, not only will they place the drink in a commercial during a break, but they will have the contestants or judges consume the drink during the show.
This is also seen in reality shows such as America’s Next Top Model. In this show, the contestant is fighting for a cover spread, and a commercial contract from Covergirl. Covergirl is a make-up company that is widely known throughout the world. By constantly mention the company name throughout the show, using Covergirl as make-up for the model contestants, the viewers will have a familiarity to the product. Immediately after the show, a Covergirl commercial will be shown. Why? To keep viewers hooked on the sponsorship. And let’s not forget the iconic “Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Covergirl.” slogan. The slogan is mentioned dozens and dozens of times. The contestants are shown memorizing that slogan for their commercial shoot. Not only is it important for the contestants, but it’s important for Covergirl. They want the watchers to think of them. To think of them when they’re at department stores; to pick their products.