Slate Magazine’s Chad Lorenz narrates a brief video journey of the nascent trend of product placement in internet TV.  He highlights a few cases and questions whether they’re smart or offensive, but he’s actually already made up his mind.  To Lorenz, “offensive” is the more appropriate adjective.  

When product placement takes up too much of the storyline or forces the characters to become out-of-character, the method becomes annoying.  That’s what Lorenz focuses on.  The bikini-clad car ad in Roommates, and Bre breaking out a pack of Ice Breakers Sours Gum are blatant, forced, and out of place. 

But internet TV has to make money some way, and when it’s done well, I’m more or less fine with the shilling. ###

While producers of web video and creators of advertising technologies figure out how to make financial statements with more black and less red, the experience for web audiences has gotten better.  We started out with the ubiquitous, repurposed 30-second TV spot rolling before, after, and between clips.  Now we have shorter pre-rolls, mid-rolls, and post-rolls in addition to pop-ups and overlays.  Advertising against videos has become less obtrusive, but it still gets in the way of the content. 

I’d much rather watch characters interact with a product t than endure a barrage of cumbersome ads that force me to click away or wait for content.  Case in point: If instead of having to watch a 15-second Zenga-inspired car ad every time I clicked play on Lorenz’s video above, I could watch the narrator deliver his showcase of web video marketing efforts while driving a slick Infiniti M, I wouldn’t mind clicking play a few more times. 

The innovative (and sometimes unabashed) tools employed by content producers to incorporate advertising and product placement into their shows is something we’ve talked a lot about here at Tilzy.TV, and we’re generally intrigued by the trend of advertisements actually becoming entertainment products

Some arguably more subtle and better-integrated initiatives that Lorenz missed are Lonelygirls15’s clear-skinned scientist character bought and paid for by Neutrogena, The Burg’s hip integration of Motorola mobile devices, and Mr. Robinson’s Driving School’s use of Volvos in an battle of succession where one teacher’s vehicular training prowess gets pitted against another’s.  Yes, the placements often don’t blend seamlessly with the content, but in these instances the products feel more like they’re a natural part of the scene than paying for its production. 

Even if it’s not part of the storyline, having characters sling products can still work.  Check out the end of these clips where a negligeed Lindesy Campbell makes overtures towards David Kalt of optionsXpress and the Ninja talks about the benefits of an FM “Zuner.”  See what I mean?

Product placement has come to web video, but it’s not all as insulting as Chad Lorenz would have you think.

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