For some gadget makers, it’s no longer enough to promote their products in commercials during the shows but to actually get them in the shows themselves. Microsoft recently landed a role in a TV series for its new Surface tablet computer.
On the Nov. 28 episode of the ABC sitcom “Suburgatory,” the character Tessa Altman (played by Jane Levy) can’t separate herself from her new tablet computer. While not identifying the product by name as the Microsoft Surface, it clearly is and Tessa marvels at its “full size USB port, integrated kickstand and a really sizable hard drive.”
To reinforce the point, the commercial breaks during the show were paid ads for the Surface, which went on sale Oct. 26 in the U.S.
Of late, it’s not enough that a character uses a Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece, drives a Camaro or wears a Gucci bag on her shoulder. These days, the product placement is part of the plot. A few weeks ago the Fox sitcom “New Girl” featured an episode where the lead character Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets a job as a model at a car show. Hijinks ensue as Jess tries to keep her footing while standing on a revolving turntable on which a 2013 Ford Fusion is parked. A presenter goes on describing the Fusion’s features as she stumbles around. And when the show goes to commercial, guess what is advertised?
As to computers, Apple has done a great job of getting its Macs, iPhones and iPads used by cast members in shows. The new Apple iPod was written into a 2010 episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” the week the actual product went on sale.
And those who watch the NBC sitcom “The Office” may notice HP computers on various desks.
Microsoft has also picked up the pace of product placements with the Windows Phone. It has been seen on shows such as “Bones” on Fox, “The Vampire Diaries” on CW and “Hawaii Five-O” on CBS. There, Five-O agent Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Laughlin) identifies the creator of a piece of artwork and when his partner Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) expresses skepticism, McGarrett responds “go ahead, Bing it,” a reference to Microsoft’s search engine.
It’s one of the many efforts to get people to use “Bing” as a verb, much as the more widely used “Google” is used as a verb – with limited success.
Why do makers of gadgets and other products pay for placement in TV shows? It’s likely due to the rise of the DVR, which gives viewers the opportunity to fast forward through commercials just as they did a generation earlier with the VCR. You may skip the commercials for the Microsoft Surface during “Suburgatory” but you’re stuck watching the product when it shares a scene with Tessa during the show.