More and more ads included in entertainment

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nebraska's public television network recently aired a locally produced program that brought back a lot of memories. It featured celebrities with Omaha roots like Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw and Floyd Kalber, and ancient kinescopes -- films made by aiming a movie camera at a TV screen -- of the first television broadcasts in Nebraska.

One of the commentators noted that it was hard to tell the commercials from the programs, with hosts of cooking shows, for example, expounding the benefits of a certain type of dishwashing soap in between the recipes and food preparation.

Viewers from the late 1940s ought to feel right at home in 2008.

On this week's broadcast of "Friday Night Lights," for example, one of the main characters takes on a new career as a car salesman, finally persuading a "lookie lou" to "take control" of his life and purchase the latest hybrid truck.

The "product placement" was made all the more obvious when the next commercial break featured the same vehicle.

We suspect a new revival of "Knight Rider" was written as much as a vehicle to advertise a certain model of car as to provide ratings for entertainment. And, tune in to "The Biggest Loser" and you'll see participants dine at a certain fast-food restaurant, use a gym chain and ride in or win a certain brand of car.

It's not just television, of course. Most of us noted that "E.T." enjoyed Reese's Pieces, and even "It's A Wonderful Life" included a scene where a young Jimmy Stewart perused a National Geographic while dreaming of traveling the world.

Buy a ticket to "The Bucket List," and you're also buying a ticket to view an ad for a certain brand of coffee.

If Sunday's Super Bowl is as much of a blow-out as some sports pundits predict, viewers may be more interested in the commercials than in the games. They should be; advertisers are shelling out $2.7 million for 30 seconds of television ad time during the game.

But not every broadcast is the Superbowl, and we can't blame advertisers for resorting to new tactics.

On day-to-day broadcasts, more and more viewers rely on digital video recorders that allow them to skip commercial breaks. Many are finding that they can't rely on traditional commercials, and need to make their product part of the story line for it to get attention.

Should we feel abused or taken advantage of?

We don't think so. Most of us should be intelligent enough to make a purchase decision based on price and features, rather than a product's appearance in the company of our favorite star.

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