Could SM Become the New Product Placement?

Eat sign in desertFrom AOL’s prominence in You’ve Got Mail to T-Mobile’s stronghold on MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge franchise, product placements are hard to miss.  They’ve run the gamut from subtly integrated to awkwardly implanted, generated buzz, and, prompted viewers to reevaluate their perceptions of endorsement.  But what’s next?

Could SM come to occupy a similar role in movies and television programs?  Is it reasonable to think we could see a day where reality show contestants are live tweeting?  Could Facebook updates replace some of the face-to-face interaction?  Not to mention how the speed at which messages move in the SM sphere seems ideal for helping the contestants on reality dating shows to spread their trash talk and drama effectively.

While the integration of SM into reality television would undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for drama more than it would a tool for achieving objectives, it seems like SM in movies and television could become the rule.  But would we still watch?

Product placements hit on our radar, but they don’t typically detract from or interrupt the plot.  But SM?  I think it looks like a distraction.  Would you watch contestants on The Bachelor receive their date boxes via Facebook?  Would it be at all compelling to have Jeopardy contestants Tweet their answers?  Beyond that, could SM be integrated into plot lines of movies and sitcoms?  Any detectives up for solving mysteries with clues found on Facebook and/or Twitter?

It might seem that I’ve taken this idea too far, but product placements started slowly and took off like a firestorm.  Can SM follow in its footsteps?  At what point will SM integration turn off viewers?

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  • jeffespo

    That is an interesting concept that would make for some bad TV. Your piece kind of reminded me of this NYT article that I read last night In a nutshell this couple uses crowd sourcing to resolve some of their fights via Facebook.

    Danielle I wouldn't dismiss your idea as too far or out of reach either. When FB gets an advertising team, I am sure that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to have something like you mentioned with the bachelor. Heck Facebook, Twitter and Myspace have all turned up in television shows already and when was the last time you met with folks in real life when they weren't Tweeting or putting up a status update?

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  • missmotorcade

    Danielle, I think you're onto something here – something BIG. I agree that your example is the extreme – but just a few weeks ago, people were stunned when American Idol's producers yanked the contestants' individual Twitter accounts and consolidated them all into one feed. I read commentary suggesting that Idol did the contestants a grave disservice by denying them the opportunity to build their individual brands on Twitter and forge relationships with the audience. Maybe what's next lies somewhere in between your example and Idol's recent actions – perhaps producers will find a way to integrate social media more effectively into [reality] tv (since, you know, it's “reality,” the essence of social media). This would work great as part of “life transformation” reality shows like The Biggest Loser and what I consider to be the original reality show, my uber fave, Big Brother. And in the case of The Biggest Loser, there is already so much on-screen product placement that I'm shocked they haven't augmented their deals with an SM component. Really interesting stuff.

  • Hi Danielle!

    This is an interesting idea, although i think we've seen its roots earlier on. Not so much in the case of #SMM, but we have seen several chat systems and movies based around them (including one with Whoopie Goldberg). It is just a matter of time that your gleaning catches on with Twitter and Facebook Chat.

    Similar to your concerns, also, I think the part that would throw me off is the visuals. Text isn't always visually appealing on Twitter and FB Chat, whereas the beautiful red color of Coke is, specially on a visual frame which is color corrected to dull out other colors to bring out the Coke bottle's prominence.

    It remains to be seen, but I think we can be confident that at one point there will be audience reception testing about this. Or maybe there is, and it didn't work :-/