It's the age of Reverse Product Placement: Fictional items from The Office go on sale
The media giant NBC- Universal broke US ad-sale records for its Olympic programming this year. But, as more people skip ad breaks, television shows must do all they can to make money. Product placement has long been a fixture of American TV, with some shows working real-life products into scripts without too much damage to reputations.
The Office has been a big part of NBC's schedule for years. It is also a prominent product placer, with plots revolving around such brands as Chili's and Staples. The US version of Ricky Gervais's show is now in its ninth season and executives have found another way to cash in. It's what The New York Times's David Carr referred to in his Media Decoder column as "reverse product placement". Rather than traditional deals, in which real products appear as part of the plot, The Office has licensed the name of its fictional paper brand, Dunder Mifflin, to be sold by Quill.com, a website owned by Staples. The Dunder Mifflin range, which includes everything from lined paper to branded Sharpie markers, has performed well enough for executives at Quill to consider starting a full-on franchise. If they do, it will be aided by the prominence of the Dunder Mifflin brand on a syndicated sitcom.
If people are dodging ads and are put off by more obvious product placement, then this is as good a way as any to make additional cash, though it is perhaps restricted to shows such as The Office, with loyal and devoted audiences.
Fans of some shows and films have been able to buy "fictional" products before, though none as prosaic as paper goods. There's a real-life chain of Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants (after Forrest Gump), an unofficial Duff Beer (The Simpsons) and Nestlé makes Wonka bars, based on Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
So, can UK shows take advantage, too? Could ITV flog Coronation Street's Underworld knickers? "Yes," says Jeremy Roberts, a media lawyer. "It would just mean [the fictional brand] would then be controlled by the restrictions real products are under in the broadcasting code." So, no undue prominence or sales of Newton & Ridley beer (you can't product-place alcohol). Time to get stitching, Granada.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove