Product Placement: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second installment of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the blog series that reminds us how ridiculously obvious modern product placement can be. Whether intentionally or not, it would appear as though the bright minds working in the film and television industries just can’t manage to weave believable occurrences of brand integration into their movies and shows.

Think you can get through a few more instances without cringing? There’s only one way to find out for sure!

Just to ease you back into it, we’ll start with…

The Good

Remember how 30 Rock kicked off the festivities in Part 1 of this series? Well, it was for a good reason. For product placement done right, look no further:

No doubt about it: it’s tough to top Tina Fey and the gang when it comes to tongue-in-cheek humor. 30 Rock is known for being a cut above most comedy shows, and cleverly self-referential moments like this are a big part of the reason why.

The Bad

There’s nothing at all wrong with a video game or two popping up in our favorite shows, but take a close look at what’s happening here:

Under normal circumstances, a mob boss playing Mario Kart is a recipe for success. Sadly, the recipe is handled too poorly here to be palatable. This is exactly the kind of condescending and oversimplified presentation that lessens the legitimacy of video games. Watching this clip, one has to wonder whether the producers of The Sopranos have played a single game in their entire lives (or even watched someone else play, for that matter). They may have created one of the most successful shows in recent history, but they sure as hell aren’t earning any extra points for realism here.

Do they honestly think that switching between single-player and multiplayer game modes is instantaneous? Do they believe that “kicking ass” means finishing in 4th place (out of eight total racers)? Presumptions like that may be forgivable, but the nerve to suggest that it only takes one hand to play a video game is not. Then again, perhaps only Mario Kart fans care enough to complain.

The Ugly

Leave it to the daytime soaps to bring us the following gem:

While I’m glad that Arianna will be “back to normal before we know it,” I can’t help but feel that she could have been more subtle with her Midol endorsement. Being a guy and all, I’m likely not in the demographic that the producers of Days of Our Lives have in mind when it comes to their marketing efforts or promotional techniques, so it’s probably not my place to comment on the subject matter of this particular scene. As far as I know, this is how young women recommend these products to one another. But a three second close-up shot of the packaging? Probably not necessary.

Well, folks, there you have it! Could these instances have been filmed in a more realistic manner by the showrunners? Possibly. Would they have been as entertaining if that were the case? Most likely not.

With the exception of the 30 Rock clip, these examples illustrate what not to do when it comes to showing reputable brands and products onscreen. And since there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of examples out there, you might just see Part 3 of this series before you know it.

Which example is your favorite here? Are these selections enough to satisfy your product placement quota for the month?

Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.


  1. Tony Promo

    Can’t see the videos, but nice work, Joe!

    Best product placement ever: Michael J. Fox’s Nike’s in Back to the Future II. I wanted those for YEARS, then when they came out with the “Back to the Future” Nike Hyperdunk, I wanted them even more…. buuuuut wasn’t willing to camp out at Niketown overnight for the release (I’m too old for that shit) or pay $300 on eBay the next day. So I bought a different pair of shoes instead. I HATE Nike.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      $300?! No sir — not for me.

      However, if they were “self-lacing,” like in BTTFII, I’d consider it.

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. I always hold up my product recommendations for a three second focus. That’s how I always “sell” products to my friends. Clearly, Days of our Lives wins for most natural.

    Or not.

    Excellent second post in the series, Joe! I had never seen the Sopranos clip with Mario Kart before, but that was definitely bad. Inaccurate portrayal of video games for the lose.

    • Jill Tooley

      I agree! Is there another way to recommend products to friends? Because if there is, I’d doubt its effectiveness. Reciting all of the product’s uses in unnatural-sounding dialogue is the best way to go!

      Seriously though, women our age would be much more likely to recommend a product by saying something like: “Dude, this shit really works! I’ve got some extra if you want to try it out.”

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I figured the Days of Our Lives representation was fairly accurate.

      The horrendous inaccuracy of the Sopranos clip, however, irks me to no end!

  3. Jen

    Awesome post Joe! I love your installments of “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”. I can’t stand the melodramatic daytime soap operas, what with all the the slow pan in face shots on sad and confused looks.This looked like a really really bad Midol commercial. At least in the real commercials, the acting is better.

    And thank you for the 30 Rock clip, It really made my Friday morning. 🙂

    I <3 Jack Donaghy forever!!!!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Alec Baldwin is the man — that’s for sure!

      I hear his Twitter page is chock-full of hilarious anecdotes as well.

  4. Jenna Markowski

    Nice selection, Joe! These three videos are definitely in the right order — the first one is hilarious, and the last one makes me want to peel my skin off! But I guess soap operas in general have that same effect on me. Maybe for people who like soap operas that was totally natural. Who knows!

    And I agree about the Sopranos example — the weirdest part about it was that he was playing with one hand. It would be natural for him to not know what to do, or even to think that 4th place was “kicking ass”, considering the fact that he is a dad who may not have played the game before. But one-handed? No one playing for the first time would think that that made sense. Even people who have been playing for a long time can’t play with just one hand — that’s just silly!

    • LK

      Let alone to be in 4th place with one hand!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Exactly! I couldn’t believe that when I saw it! Did the filmmakers honestly think that the one-handed technique looked realistic?!

      I mean — c’mon!

  5. Amanda

    Nice post Joe! I see what you’ve all been talking about now with 30 Rock–that is a hilarious product placement! =) The Midol one is pretty bad–that close up is so ridiculous! But I can see at least part of that happening in real life. And the Nintendo one–I don’t know if I would have noticed it much if I was watching the show. It did seem weird that they kept focusing on the tv screen though, and that they switched to two player mode so quickly, lol. Great post!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks! Yeah, switching over to two-player mode definitely takes a minute or two. Then again, I suppose it wouldn’t have been a particularly interesting scene if they’d spent the majority of it alternating between game settings.

  6. amy

    The Good- 30 Rock will forever be my favorite show that embraces product placements 😀 If you have to do it, at least own it and make it funny.

    The Bad- Even though I’m not an avid video game player, I can understand how frustrating watching someone “kicking ass” and still only placing in 4th would be. As well as watching someone play with one hand when every viewer knows they don’t regularly play.

    The Ugly- The Midol ad placement with its 3-second shot is so awkward I can’t even believe it. I could understand if it was placed in the background or something, but dialogue about its benefits is not adding much. Except me rolling my eyes at the TV.

    Excellent post again sir, I’m hoping for a part 3!!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Glad you enjoyed the examples! And don’t worry — there will certainly be a “Part 3.”

  7. Jill Tooley

    Another tasty read, Joe. 🙂

    That 30 Rock episode is absolutely hilarious. It’s one of the few shows that does product placement tastefully enough to where I don’t mind it at all. In fact, I look forward to it! Advertisers are getting so much more for their money this way, in my opinion, because it doesn’t make viewers cringe and it makes their brand that much more memorable. It shows that Snapple has a sense of humor, which makes me like them even more!

    I love that you’ve incorporated little Bubba in the main photo once again!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I couldn’t agree more when it comes to 30 Rock! Tongue-in-cheek is the way to go when it comes to brand integration.

      And yes, I do enjoy giving Bubba cameo appearances in the header images! 🙂

  8. Rachel

    Video games being played incorrectly on TV is definitely annoying. It’s like when TV people pound on their keyboards but never use the mouse, yet things keep popping up on the screen (complete with random sound effects that don’t happen in real life, either). But yeah, the camera definitely lingers on the gameplay itself for a long time in that clip. Pretty distracting.

    Another great installment of your product placement series, Joe! Looking forward to more 🙂

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