I was incredulous...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I was incredulous...

Updated 01/17/2012 – 01:16 pm

...when I watched last evening's edition of "Hawaii Five-0" as CBS turned the clock back more than 50 years.

(Yeah, I know I said I'd given up on the series last Fall, but for want of other boob tubery, I tuned in.)

Most people today won't recall the time when advertising agencies owned and produced the shows that people watched on their flickering and rolling black and white screens, and instead of the commercial breaks we have crammed into each hour, the promotional messages were incorporated into the the narrative.

A prime example was "Martin Kane, Private Eye" (NBC 1949-1954) in which the protagonist would always stop at his favorite tobacconist where he discussed pipe tobaccos and cigarettes with proprietor "Happy McMann."

At that age, I didn't realize that any brands mentioned were always products of the United States Tobacco Company or another client of Madison Avenue giant J. Walter Thompson & Co.1

That custom had pretty much disappeared by the end of the '50s when the networks took over the shows and series.

Taylor Wily

Consider Monday's epispode, "Pu'olo," in which the Five-O team goes to the tropical "roach coach" operated by "Kame­kona" to enlist him in an undercover scheme.

They find it shuttered in midday and its 430 pound proprietor sitting at a nearby picnic table with a pile of foot-long Subway Sandwiches, and they engage in a near minute-long colloquy about the fillings and condiments, and their benefits to the weight-loss program being undertaken by the bungalow-sized "Kamekona."

'Kamekona' working his way through a pile of Subway foot-long sandwiches

O, and if that wasn't enough, the final line of the episode?

"Buy you a Subway."

(Additional stealth commercial messages were spotted by IPBiz blogger Lawrence Ebert.)

It's outrageously blatant, and signals a dangerous return to the practices of 55-60 years ago.

In those six decades we've seen the content of hour-long TV shows shrink from 52 to 44 minutes, and the insideous rise of the "pop-up" network promo messages... which is in addition to the appalling quality of many of the shows themselves!

If there isn't a strong backlash against the type of action CBS and Subway pulled last night, look for the practice to become rampant by the end of 2012!

(Here's the 58 second sequence.)

Viewers with DVRs may be able to avoid commercial breaks with the fast forward feature, but it seems that some advertisers are determined to get their product exposed one way or the other!

  1. JWT, as it's now known, also had a hand in the production of shows such as "Kraft Television Theater," "Father Knows Best," "Naked City," "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Have Gun, Will Travel."


1. Rob F. said...

I could forgive "Five-O"'s routine and blatant product placement of Chevy vehicles (most notably the new Camaro). After all, the cool stars have to drive something cool to look cool, and cool (even iconic) cars have been a sine qua non for many cop/detective shows for decades (e.g., "Miami Vice", "Magnum P.I.", "The Rockford Files", "Starsky & Hutch"). But last night's Subway commercial within the episode was so far over the line, it was practically a product placement parody. I was waiting for "Kamekona" to turn to the camera, break the fourth wall, and deliver the Subway slogan while it appeared in text superimposed on the screen, while Jared stopped by the table in a cameo. If the producers are going to go for farce, go all the way.

Excellent point about the "product placement" of vehicles.

But here's the capper... Subway's Website has the following:
"We've heard there may just be a SUBWAY shout out on tonight's episode of Hawaii 5-0. We'll follow anyone who replies w/ what subs they show!"
Who do they think they're kidding? "We've heard?" Do they really think anyone's going to believe that CBS or the show's producers included that 58 seconds out of the goodness of their hearts?
– Dean

2. Jim Cordo said...

In the movie "ET," they used Reese's Pieces to lure ET into the house. Mars had refused to give them permission to use M&Ms, and the sale of Reese's went through the roof.

In "The Godfather," all the wise guys drank Amaretto di Sorano. After that, when I worked in Magic's Pub, we went from the occasional order of Amaretto to a lot of cases every week.

I understand your point Dean but from a marketing standpoint it is a gold mine.

I also thought that scene with the Subway sandwiches was very funny, so I guess I enjoyed it. IMHO, If done correctly it doesn't distract from the show.

There's a huge difference between "product placement" and the incorporation of a 30 or 60 second commercial into the dramatic or comedic narrative, Jimbo. The "ET"/Reese's story is the stuff of Madison Avenue legend, and demonstrated just how powerful a promotional tool such an approach could be.

The other example you give is somewhat dubious to my recollection... the film came out in 1970 1972 and Magic's wasn't Magic's 'til 1973. Still, that's a tough connection to research, especially with Wikipedia dark for the day.

Of course it can be a gold mine, but that's not my point... I don't want any part of "a story" dedicated to a blatant advertisement like that.

Glad you enjoyed the minute-long plug for foot-longs... my wife and I love the talking baby spots for E-Trade which are clever and very well written. But look at the countless other commercial messages we either endure or fast-forward through!
– Dean

3. Laurel said...

With tricks like this I foresee reading making a roaring comeback!

That could be an unforeseen benefit, couldn't it?

4. Jim Cordo said...

I guess I mispoke about Magic's, but I was there for sure. Must have been Shotwell's Pump at the time. As I remember, Billy bought Shotwell's and didnt change the name to Magic's right away or maybe Billy was just running it for Shotwell 'til he bought it, but either way I was there. I was 19 and working the door in The Artful Dodger.

Billy had been managing Shotwell's Pump for several years when Johnny started making noises about getting out. He and Billy worked out a deal, their respective attorneys Bill Burcher and Tommy Beasley (who had opened the Dodger as "The Burgandy Room," colloqually known as "Beasley's Backend," in 1964) drew up the papers, and it was done... he took over in mid-'73, I recollect.

I don't doubt you were there, Jimbo... I just don't recall "The Godfather"/Amaretto connection.

5. David Benjamin Seman said...

Sickening and insulting.

And to think this was once the way it was routinely done during the Golden Age of Television.

But please, sir, jump all over anyone in your agency who thinks this is a great idea!
– Dean

6. Kevin said...

I give "Hawaii Five 0" maybe one or two more seasons with BS like this. But then again, "Dog The Bounty Hunter" is still going strong and look what a wretched sell-out he is.

I think you've over-estimated the CBS show's life expectancy, #1, and, #2, the Chapman family's adventures demonstrate just how far cable A&E has sunk.

7. William Rodney said...

"The Godfather" - 1972

You're right... there's a mistake I don't make too often! (Sorry, Jimbo.)

But even now that Wikipedia is back on-line after its one day hiatus, not even they make any connection between the movie and Amaretto di Sorano.
– Dean

8. Mr. Mike said...

While one can see Kamekona as actually delivering his lines in a commercial-like way expounding the virtues of Subway sandwiches, since he is kind of a literal-minded guy, this sequence once again demonstrates that the writers for the new "Hawaii Five-0" do not understand the concept of "show -- don't tell." If Kamekona had been complaining about losing weight and in a subsequent shot been shown munching on a Subway sandwich with the camera focusing on the wrapper with the Subway logo, minus the spiel this sequence would have been regarded as "cute," rather than "so stupid I'm not going to watch the show again." Someone at IMDb said this show will be known forever as "the Subway show."

From the widespread response this blog entry is getting, years from now, this may come to be known as "The Subway Revolt."

9. FilmgoerJuan said...

The "E.T." product placement didn't hit you over the head with mentions of the product name, either. I attended an outdoor screening of the film just last Summer and during the scene where "Elliott "is laying out the candy for "E.T." a kid nearby asked his mother what he was putting on the ground. "I don't know," she said, "I think it's either M&Ms or jellybeans."

I doubt anyone watching this week's episode would go "I think he was eating some Quizno's subs."smiley


10. Kat said...

I was floored watching that scene – it wasn't as bad as the recent "General Hospital" episode where they blatantly plugged Hershey's syrup though. It was the weirdest thing and completely astounded me – wondering if anyone else saw it? "Elizabeth" was trying to cheer up "Cameron" and pretty much did a Hershey's commercial for making chocolate milk.

O, well....

11. Crabby said...

What goes around, comes around. Look, ya can't pre-tape and/or TiVo out the advertising content for fear of missing the program.

"ET" – I remember – it was Reeses Pieces, although they never really took off. I recall a fair amount of press at the time regarding M&M's refusal to place their product on that terrific sleeper film.

12. Kelly said...

"Fringe" had a borderline bad shill for the Nissan Leaf the other week, where two main characters were fiddling with the car for about 15 seconds, but nowhere near as the "Hawaii Five 0" thing. MAN!

"Fiddling with [a Nissan Leaf] for about 15 seconds" doesn't begin to rise to the level of a 58 second integrated commercial!
– Dean

13. Lisa Wolf said...

Well the "Hawaii Five-O" is at least abit more realistic then the "Fringe" one with the Nissan Leaf. Even if an FBI agent had an car like a Nissan Leaf, I doubt the FBI would let the agent use it for work. Due to the limited range and length of time to fill the thing up, if they had ended up in a high speed chase it would of ended up dead on the side of road.

The "Hawaii Five-0" placement was a bit silly and went on too long, but the "Fringe" one was just unrealistic, they even brought up about if they would have enough range to reach where they were gonna go.

Never watched the Fox show, and the writing of the CBS series, irrespective of the Subway product placement, has taken it off my viewing schedule.

Besides, there's just too many better shows on Sundays that I time-shift them and catch-up Monday evenings.

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