When Advertising Integration Goes Too Far: The People’s Choice Awards

“And the People’s Choice Award goes to Emma Stone whose shiny red hair was washed with Pantene Pro-V (available at your local CVS) and just recently finished playing Assassin’s Creed on her Xbox 360!”

If you didn’t see the People’s Choice Awards, you didn’t miss much more than a comprehensive two hour commercial interrupted by commercial breaks. Host Kaley Cuoco offered lots of awkward mini-infomercials before presenters took over with awards. Audiences were treated to three minute long stories about Pantene’s greatness smashed in between awards.

I understand: the People’s Choice Awards is probably the least important show during awards season. But awards season is my NFL playoffs, so it really bothered me that the show was stripped down to a play date for advertisers.

Only a handful of celebrities were allowed to make acceptance speeches, and most awards were just thrust into a person’s hand in the audience. Or not even announced.


Emma Stone won for favorite movie actress, but they ended up giving her two awards. What was the other one for? We’ll never know. As soon as Nathan Fillion won for favorite TV actor drama, an announcer mumbled something about Castle, practically clocked Fillion’s costar with the crystal award, and then cut to a commercial.

I know that without the sponsored awards and in-show commercials, the People’s Choice Awards would cease to exist. But there’s a fine line between supporting the show and taking over the show.

When you cut out acceptance speeches and dozens of awards to make room for a five minute commercial about how CVS carries everything you need for an awards show; from eye shadow to lip balm; from pantyhose to hemorrhoid cream; you’re taking over.

Thankfully, there were two brands that integrated with style. P & G asked celebrities what they wanted to thank their mothers for, and an Xbox 360 played clips of winning movies and music.

By humanizing famous people and adding visual elements to the show, these brands figured out how to integrate themselves without annoying the viewers.

There have to be better ways for advertisers to get their brand impressions. Maybe celebrities could obviously sip on Coca Cola products or take a picture of the crowd with their brand new Samsung phone. There could be a shot of the host chomping down on Honey Nut Cheerios backstage. Heck, I would prefer physical banners on the walls of the theater to poorly-acted “Like, oh my God, CVS is totally the best!” advertisements. Product placement is always superior to product cram-down-your-throat.

Most of this is our fault. When commercials are on, we speed through them, turn down the volume, or hightail it to the bathroom. Fortunately for the advertisers, product integration works. What’s unfortunate for consumers is that 4 out of 5 times, the advertising/writing team fails at making it humorous or subtle.

Between celebrities making fun of the product placement, and critics across the board despising it, let’s hope that the People’s Choice Awards can make next year’s integrated advertising almost as cool as 30 Rock or Chuck.

Did you suffer through the advertising horror of the People’s Choice Awards? Can you think of a time when a product was poorly integrated into a TV show or movie? Any other suggestions for how they can better integrate their advertising?


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. Eric

    I remember when the DVR came about and people were able to skip commercial breaks, forcing networks to combat the anti-advertisement sentiment with “live” commercials usually delegated to the hosts of late-night talk shows. Sure, they championed the DVR with it. But watching Leno hawk random products just makes no sense in my mind. Or, in this case, those on a television awards show. It rubs folks the wrong way. Honestly, I’m less bothered by those Coke cups in front of the “Idol” judges. Sure, they’re sitting there in an obligatory fashion, but they’re not as abrasive to me as some of the ones your article mentions.

    Think the ideas you suggest – even if some are half-kidding – are much better alternatives than hijacking what should be a night of celebration and turning it into commercial advertisement. Doesn’t quite make it the “People’s Choice” when most of it’s being arbitrated by the advertisers.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Precisely. I understand that the advertisers need to make their money, but they are going about it in a way that’s completely off-putting to viewers. I watch award shows for the fashion, celebrities, and acceptance speeches. When all of these are being under cut to tell me why CVS is the best store around, I’m going to stop watching. Alienating viewers is a surefire way not to rake in brand impressions.

  2. Jenna Markowski

    OK, so that CVS commercial ran in the middle of the awards show? *Flips Table* That entire video made me want to peel my skin off. Besides the fact that the advertising and brand name-dropping is excessive and unnatural, I am repulsed by the advice that, “There’s no excuse to neglect yourself when you have quick fixes!” Um, excuse me, Miss Thing, but I am perfectly content with my hot-mess-disheveled-lazy college student look. Besides, those quick fixes are not cheap, whether you buy them at CVS or not.

    What I learned from the People’s Choice Awards this year: we’ve given up on the “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” mantra entirely.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      You know, I was so mad about them cutting off Castle’s acceptance speech that I think I angrily tuned out the rest of the advertisement. But yeah, that’s definitely a terrible message to spread to the viewers. And considering that Demi Lovato was one of the musical guests, I assume that the demographic of viewers were mostly teenage girls that should be hearing the exact opposite. Way to fail, CVS.

  3. Jaimie Smith

    I actually did not see the People’s Choice Awards. But I guess I really did not miss out on much. Except I do LOVE Kaley Cuoco, though. I feel like i would have enjoyed it knowing she was the host. I used to be obsessed with watching her show 8 Simple Rules. But back to your post, I would have been VERY annoyed if they kept throwing advertisements in the show. I HATE commercials. (besides when watching the Superbowl) Very well done, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Kaley Cuoco was a fun and spunky host, but even she got tiring after spewing out the thirtieth commercial in an hour.

      It’s a tricky balance. Advertisers need to spread product recognition because so many people speed through commercials; but detracting from the awards show just to peddle hand cream is helping their brand image.

  4. Alex Brodsky

    I’m going to try not to get into a rant here, cause there is SO MUCH I could/want to say. So to calm me down, I’ll start by saying how I absolutely <3 Kaley Cuoco.

    Keep in mind, the only reason she was hosting is because the awards show was on CBS, the same network as The Big Bang Theory. Her hosting gig is just a way for her to win an audience over, and in turn, make them Big Bang fans.

    Also, the show is produced by Proctor & Gamble. They're not a production company. They don't make television and movies (the likes of NBC/Universal or Warner Brothers). They're a Fortune 500 company who sells consumer goods. Since they pay for the show, of course they're going to advertise for their products as much as possible.

    I could rant about how people are idiots and shouldn't be allowed to vote for anything, but that'd take more time than I have. Joe is warming up the branding iron to get me back to work.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m well aware that Kaley Cuoco was only hosting to convert more Big Bang Theory fans (they had a whole opening sketch with the sitcom gang). It’s also why the other biggest bit of the night was with Neil Patrick Harris to try and seduce more How I Met Your Mother viewers.

      I get that P&G are trying to make a pretty penny, I do. But I don’t understand why some of their product advertising was clever and some was absolutely awful. Are they only paying their advertising team enough to come up with one clever idea?

  5. Amy Swanson

    Ugh, after watching this year’s People’s Choice Awards I’m vowing not to watch them next year. The product placement and ads were too much for me to handle, I understand that they’re needed since we don’t watch traditional commercials anymore. But do they have to make them so obnoxious?! That CVS one takes the cake on “could this be any more blatantly obvious?!” Ridiculous.

    Glad to see I’m not the only one feeling this way 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m with you, Amy. I think I’ll just have to check the website the next day for the winners, because I don’t think I can handle the obnoxious product integration.

      Darn Catch-22. They lose viewers every year, so they have to ramp up the product integration; but when they ramp up the product placement, they lose more viewers.

  6. Jen

    I agree that if they were going to advertise products on the show, between giving out the awards, then it should be funny (30 Rock style). If they had someone like Tina Fey or Alec Baldwin in-between acceptance speeches doing hilarious sketches while advertising the products, it would be a hit! Hell, if they did that for all award shows I might watch them, otherwise I think they are BORING.

    Great rant Mandy, I completely feel the same way you do on this topic. 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      You make a great point, Jen! If they did have funny sketches about products, they wouldn’t just be watched live, but they would also generate social buzz, which would stretch the advertising life of the sketch. I can guarantee the only person that wanted to watch that CVS commercial I embedded is the CVS creative team.

  7. Candice J.

    Speaking towards Eric’s comment, that’s why I DVR EVERYTHING! Even if I can watch it when it actually comes on. I just can’t stand being overwhelmed with all the obnoxious ads and commercials, half the time for things that don’t even relate to whats being aired. I DVR and fast forward through ALL the commercials and if I see something I think I might like or find interesting then I’ll rewind and watch it. It’s crazy to think how much time I used to waste watching the Grammys or Oscars on just the commercials. It might be scheduled to air for 3 hours but I DVR and fast forward and I can usually get it down to under 2. I understand why companies do it, but that doesn’t mean i’ll even like it.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I hear ya. It’s just sad that I’m going to have to start DVRing award shows. To me, there’s something very thrilling about watching them live.

  8. Jeff Porretto

    “Product cram-down-your-throat.” Hahahahaa! Well said Mandy. There’s actually nothing that will KEEP me from buying something faster than if they annoy the s*** out of me. CVS? Peace. There’s just no excuse for advertisements EVER replacing content. EVER.

    And I will also second Alex’s <3 of Ms. Cuoco =] But not even she could save such a dreadful showcase of "Product cram-down-your-throat."

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      After that display of Product cram-down-your-throat, I really don’t feel like shopping at CVS ever again. Viva la Walgreens!

  9. Joseph Giorgi

    Wow! That whole “Red Carpet Host Makeover” segment was stomach-churningly awful! I haven’t had cable in a while, so I was unaware that network TV was in such a sad state of promotional affairs. Honestly, I feel bad for the (intelligent) viewers at home who have to put up with this kind of presentation.

    “[A] comprehensive two hour commercial interrupted by commercial breaks” pretty much sums it up exactly. Well put!

    SIDE NOTE: I think I’ll avoid cable for another few years.

    SIDE NOTE #2: I love that Emma Stone just finished Assasin’s Creed on her 360. I just finished that one recently myself. 😀

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yeah, the intelligent viewers are definitely growing annoying and abandoning award shows like this. It’ll be interesting to see if the People’s Choice Awards ratings continue to go down. I mean, this year’s ratings were pretty dismal and they even had Robert Pattinson there. If Edward Cullen can’t save the awards, what can be done?! 😉

  10. Rachel

    I agree with everybody that the CVS commercial is atrocious. I’m glad I didn’t end up watching the People’s Choice Awards this year … though it’s interesting how much more heavily they rely on in-show advertising compared to other awards shows, like the Globes or Emmys or Oscars. Of course, I suppose all awards shows are really giant advertisements for movies/TV shows/actors/fashion — but that’s what I’m tuning in for, so it doesn’t strike me as out of place or obnoxious. Alex also makes a good point that a show sponsored by P&G is going to have a lot more reason for advertising products than a show sponsored by, say, the Foreign Press Association. So the People’s Choice Awards’ ridiculous product placement is a tad more understandable, I guess.

    Anyway, I’m rambling now. 🙂 Great post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      A tad more understandable, but still ridiculous. Like I said, I get the reason why they have to peddle products, I just wish they’d do it in a better and less-intrusive way.

  11. Cybernetic SAM

    This is exactly why I do not want cable, this would enrage me! It is bad enough we have to watch more advertisements and product placement in everything, but now this is a little much. I know I have referenced this many times over but again this all circles back to the movie Idiocracy, soon we will all live in a world where literally everything is covered in ads, even us! Great post, I am glad you had the strength to make it through. I wouldn’t have been able!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Luckily it was just two hours of awful – I don’t think I could’ve stuck it out for a third hour. And when the advertisers come to slap ads on my clothing, I hope they at least have the decency to pick brands I like. 🙁

  12. Jill Tooley

    These ads all made me want to curl up and die. How you sat through two hours of this horse manure is beyond me…you have better endurance than I!

    I understand Alex’s point about companies having a certain right to advertise like this if they’re funding it, but COME ON. There HAS to be a better way. Barf!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      This CVS “infomercial” was really bad. I’m pretty sure that I got up and went to do something (ANYTHING) that wasn’t listening to this terrible drivel.

      I think I would’ve preferred if Kaley Cuoco had dressed up in a CVS dress. Or as a giant box of Honey Bunches of Oats.

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