David Usborne: What you see on US TV is what you're supposed to get

View from America: There were 117,976 placements on programmes in the first quarter of last year

We are so inured to the commercialisation of everything in the consumerland they call America that we hardly notice any more when shows that are meant to entertain – or educate and inform – are also vehicles for purchase-persuasion. Yes, yes, so the news reader is drinking McDonald's iced coffee this evening. So?

So, after the sports part of the bulletin is over, we are meant to jump thirsty into our Buick cross-over car (the model we fell in love with sometime during the last Desperate Housewives season) and head to the nearest Mickey-D for a large helping of said beverage ourselves. But we would not do that, would we?

Well, maybe we would, which is why product-placing on American television shows has been big business for years. Or product integration, some call it.

Nielsen Media Research, which puts out the daily audience rating numbers, shows there were 117,976 such placements on programmes on the top 11 US TV channels in the first quarter of last year. That's a lot of not-so-subtle glimpses of Coca-Cola and Heineken cans. (No, The Independent is not raking in extra cash for the brands mentioned in this short article, but maybe it should be.)

Heineken is among many companies to have negotiated placement deals with the highly successful Mad Men, which, as it happens, is all about an advertising agency. Its lead fellow is Don Draper and he is a very cool cat. Who would not want him imbibing their brew? Cadillac, London Fog and US Airways have also done deals with the producers of Mad Men, although it features a New York of decades ago.

Once in a while, people object. When those newscasters – in Las Vegas – took to their desks with the McDonald's iced coffee last year, there was a brouhaha. But the deal went ahead anyway after producers promised they would be removed if a news story about McDonald's should come up. The brown liquid in the plastic cups was not coffee anyway, but a chemical concoction that would preserve the ice. Tasty.

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