Last Tuesday, “New Girl” aired an episode that prominently featured the Ford brand. I talk a lot about advertising and its relation to the television industry here, and for the most part, I’m in favor of it.
But let me just be blunt — what happened last Tuesday at 9pm was ridiculous, and not in the good way.
In the episode, Jess’ friend Cici ends up a little too hung-over for her modeling job. So naturally, the goofy but big-hearted Jess steps in to fill her place so Cici doesn’t lose the job, and finds modeling isn’t quite as easy as standing and pointing.
Here’s the thing though — the job was a car show. The car, a Ford Fusion. While Jess is semi-amusingly stumbling and losing her heels on the revolving platform, an announcer is rattling off the various features of the car. “The all new Fusion has been totally redesigned, inside and out. All new styling, 18 inch aluminum wheels, three year, bumper to bumper warranty, five year powertrain, available blah blah, blah blah, your coworkers will be jealous.” No, Gary The Announcer, my coworkers will not be jealous. My coworkers will be standing at the water cooler, expressing their disbelief that I actually continued watching the remaining ten minutes of the episode.
The Jess failing bit was barely funny to begin with and went on for far too long – regardless of the audio narration in the background. But when you add in the Ford commercial going on at the same time – because that is exactly what it was, a verified car commercial — it was unacceptable.
I have a problem with this; I have a huge problem. While I certainly understand the current unique challenges of the ad industry in terms of reaching consumers when its target market insists on skipping ads with DVRs. There is a line. The USA Network flirts with it when it has characters in not one but two shows buy and extoll the features of their new cars (Evan on Royal Pains and Wes on Common Law). At least there was some degree of organic creative integration and some reason why Evan and Wes were buying new cars and having conversations about the awesome stereo or heated and cooled cup holders – that’s what people do when they buy new cars.
But on “New Girl”? No one was buying a car. It wasn’t relatable. It was a five minute long car commercial, and it was boring. I get bored at most traditional car ads anyway, but to stick one in the middle of my Tuesday night comedy viewing? Egregious.
By the end, I was just plain annoyed — annoyed at Ford for making me sit through that, annoyed at the creative heads behind “New Girl” that actually allowed that farce, and annoyed that FOX would stoop so low as to imbed such a thing into an episode of creative television.
In order to be effective, product placement needs to be natural. It needs to feel like something a real human being would do – because after all, we don’t use computers with pear logos, drink Moondollars coffee, or eat at a lunch place called Sandwiches. We use Apple laptops, drink Starbucks, and eat at Subway. Our lives have become fully commercialized, dominated by brands everywhere we go.
There was no creativity here, no natural integration. Those five minutes of “New Girl” would’ve made for a semi-interesting but certainly not award-winning actual advertisement had they occurred outside of the show, but to be included as a part of the episode? No. Just plain no.
So is this the future of automobile product placement? Will this replace traditional car ads? If so, consider me out.
(Well, until Google makes those nifty self-driving cars available for purchase. Sign me up for all the ads about those.)
Bonus Office Quote of the Week:
Dwight: Reject a woman, and she will never let it go. One of the many defects of their kind. Also, weak arms. (“The Coup”, Episode 3, Season 3)