Product Placement Gone Wild

22 December 2010

Fashion Real: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but Sex Sells

by Raegan Thurlow, Part-Time Fashionista; illustration by Mark Armstrong

While watching “Brothers & Sisters” the other night, a very disturbing thing happened…

I was curled up on my couch wearing my red-and-white-striped PJ’s (what with Christmas just around the corner) and was fully immersed in the show’s storyline: Sally Field is worried about her children and doesn’t know how to live her own life separate from said grown children.

Okay, that’s basically every episode of “Brothers & Sisters,” but I’m hooked just the same.

So just as I’m reaching for my fifth handful of frozen chocolate chips that I’ve sworn will be my last for the evening, Calista Flockhart’s brother mentions that he took her son to the mall, and that Macy’s is doing a promotion where they donate money (or was it that they’d pay someone to finally clean their dressing rooms?) for every letter to Santa that they receive, and…


I had to get my candy cane butt off the couch for a few minutes (during which time I put the bag of chocolate chips back into the freezer – it’s called “self control,” look it up), just to walk off the shame of what I had just witnessed. Really, ABC, this is what you’ve resorted to? “Dancing with the Stars” isn’t bringing in enough ad dollars for you to avoid interjecting a commercial into one of your dramas?

I don’t mean to be the Grinch of product placement, but this really killed the episode for me. I thought this show was supposed to be somewhat realistic. Are we really to believe that Calista Flockhart would let her son near a Macy’s? That place is a high school locker room where you can’t walk more than a few feet without stepping on gum. Amidst the knockoff jewelry and not-quite-right apparel is a cesspool of bargain shoppers and second-rate gifts. Macy’s used to be an institution but now just employs people who should be institutionalized. It’s cheesy and cheap and no amount of advertising on a TV program is going to change that.

Missed Opportunity

Chad Ricardo Underwear

Chad Ricardo? Missed Opportunity

A few weeks back, “Brothers & Sisters” aired an episode where the hot foreign guy who’s engaged to the oldest sister (reality check, anyone?) gets a modeling gig for a Calvin Klein-esque brand, “Chad Ricardo Underwear.” The ads had the style and lighting of a Calvin Klein ad. The product was very Calvin Klein boxer briefs. But the show went with the fake name for the brand.

THIS was your chance!

One snapshot of Don Juan undressed on a billboard, now that’s what I’m buying. This was an instance where a real brand name was needed. It would have made sense and tied into the show seamlessly, and it would have added some legitimacy to the script for the viewers.

“Macy’s is doing a really great promotion”?! You’ve just stripped yourself of any credibility.

Product promotion should be natural and relaxed like a good pair of jeans. If it’s forced and in-your-face, it’s just pleather. And people aren’t buying it.

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By day, Raegan Thurlow works as a mild-mannered tech executive. At night, she dons a 100% cashmere cape and becomes a fashion writer looking to rip into trends for a living.

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