Wal-Mart and P&G to push products with a movie

Wal-Mart and P&G (Proctor & Gamble) have announced that they will team up to produce a made for TV movie called “Secrets of the Mountain” which will air on NBC on April 16th. It is a movie designed for families and will include product placements from the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest consumer product maker. The two companies will also run their own ads during the commercial breaks. I don’t know if this is a first for these types of companies to enter the TV or movie production business, but it does raise the question of whether product placement is good or bad for our viewing purposes.

Product placement, for anyone that is not familiar with the term, refers to having brand name products used by the actors within a show or movie. We see it in just about every Hollywood film today and on many TV shows as well. Some people are irritated and hate the idea that companies promote their products during movies and TV shows because they feel it cheapens and commercializes their viewing experience. This argument has some teeth in some cases…but only in SOME cases.

If done correctly, product placement actually improves the viewing experience. I have not yet heard anyone make this statement about product placement so I will explain how having a Coke bottle or Hanes underwear in TV show or movie makes that movie or show better. When you see a brand name product in a show, such as a bottle of Coke on the dinner table while the family is having a meal gives that scene and the characters involved a dose of realism and it makes the story more believable. The key is to not look at that bottle and shake your head in anger that Coke paid to have their logo on that bottle. Every time I see a product that imitates a brand name but does not use it that just makes me think: “ok, I understand what they are trying to say with the “Cola” bottle, but it is less believable because no drinks that.”

On the other hand, it does cheapen the show and viewing experience when there is a blatant attempt to promote the product like mentioning the brand in a weird way in a sentence where it seems unnecessary to mention it or its features. Let’s take that dinner scene from before. I have no problem if one person says to another at the dinner table “hey can you pass the Coke? That makes sense, that’s what you would expect them to say. However, it only dilutes the scene and character if instead that character said “hey can you pass that refreshing Coke?” No one would ever say that in real life and it just looks like a commercial.

I don’t want to prejudge this Wal-Mart/P&G movie before I actually see it, but I will anyway. From the announcement it sounds like it will reek of poorly done product placements. It is obvious that the products are the chief reasons for making this movie which should not be the number one priority of any movie or show. Also, these two companies know nothing about making entertaining movies. They are masters of their own industries and although they make compelling commercials which is proved by their over all success, that is a different world completely than producing an actual movie or show. They would have probably been better served to just pay for a made for TV movie that is created for the purpose of entertainment and just SUBTLY insert their products in to it and then run their ads during the commercials.

I want to say that I’ll follow up on this story after the airing of the movie in April, but I am not sure that I’ll have the patience or interest to actually watch it.