Product placement, but not as we know it: Elton's a hit on the Starship Enterprise

By James Morrison
Sunday 24 November 2002 01:00
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If you think you just heard Tony Soprano humming "Candle in the Wind", don't adjust your set.

Elton John's songs are to be fed into the soundtracks of some of America's top television shows in a promotional push described by critics as the most shameless example of "product placement" yet.

Six Feet Under and the latest Star Trek spin-off, Enterprise, are among a raft of popular series soon to be saturated with the music of the ageing pop icon. Record bosses have offered broadcasters the chance to plunder Sir Elton's back catalogue for knockdown rates, to maximise sales of his new hits album in the run-up to Christmas. Throughout the coming month, his 1971 hit "Rocket Man" will be heard on trailers for Enterprise. It will also emanate from a stereo in the next series the cult funeral parlour drama Six Feet Under.

The return to TV of the actress Heather Locklear as a flirty rep on the medical sitcom Scrubs will be heralded on NBC by adverts featuring "The Bitch is Back". The singles "Your Song" and "Tiny Dancer" will be used to plug two other shows soon to be exported to Britain, Good Morning, Miami and Presidio Med.

Commercials too are getting in on the act. An ad for Chevrolet currently playing across the US networks is backed by Sir Elton's 1972 hit "Crocodile Rock".

But the most extensive selection will feature in a high society crime exposé, Murder in Greenwich. The made-for-TV movie has managed to incorporate an album's worth of tracks, ranging from "Philadelphia Freedom" to "Someone Saved My Life Tonight".

Never one to shy away from publicity, Sir Elton has been open about his latest, audacious attempt to infiltrate the airwaves. In a statement issued on his behalf to the US trade press, Universal declared: "Elvis is king but Elton is everywhere."

Francesca Newland, news editor of Campaign, the advertising industry magazine, said the development was symptomatic of a worrying upsurge in the level of product placement on TV and film.

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