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Subliminal Messages

Top 10 network prime-time TV programs ranked by number of product placement occurrences from Jan. 1 to Nov. 25, 2007.

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FAST CARS & SUPERSTARS: THE GILLETTE YOUNG GUNS CELEBRITY RACE, ABC

WWD Staff

Top 10 network prime-time TV programs ranked by number of product placement occurrences from Jan. 1 to Nov. 25, 2007.

The writer’s strike has been putting a damper on the filming of TV programs lately, and the gaps in networks’ schedules are being filled by a slew of new reality programs. That’s good news for major brands, though (and perhaps bad news for traditional advertising), since they’ve taken product placement to a whole new level. In fact, Nielsen’s top 10 prime-time network TV shows with the highest number of product placement occurrences in 2007 were all reality and game shows: Not one drama or sitcom eked its way in. Why? Because product integration is a much easier form of advertising to execute in reality shows, mediapost.com pointed out in July 2006. Additionally, mediabuyerplanner.com noted that same month, “The success of placements has led companies to abandon 30-second commercials to intertwine their products into the plots and dialogues of some of TV’s prime-time shows.”

AMERICAN IDOL, FOX

Total number of product placement occurrences: 4,349

Not only was this reality singing program ranked first in product placements last year, but it also ranked number one in terms of viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research — and keep in mind, the show only aired from January to May. Two of the three top brands that were seen on the show included AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless, both owned by AT&T — viewers were encouraged to text their votes into the show by using these two brands’ text messaging services. But the most-placed product on the show was Coca-Cola, whose supersized plastic red cups sat in front of the judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson (seen left) — week after week. And for those “American Idol” junkies, there’s more on the horizon: Season seven begins airing Jan. 15.


FAST CARS & SUPERSTARS: THE GILLETTE YOUNG GUNS CELEBRITY RACE, ABC

Total occurrences: 3,231

“Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race” aired last summer and featured 12 celebrities in a stock car race. Former NFL quarterback John Elway was the winner, while the eliminated contestants included tennis star Serena Williams (left), singer Jewel, skateboarder Tony Hawk, pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, surfer Laird Hamilton and actor William Shatner, among others. Gillette, the show’s sponsor, had plenty of product placements throughout the series, as it featured its Fusion Razor, among other products. But the brand mentioned most? Alpinestars Apparel, the Italian manufacturer of professional racing products, high-performance apparel and footwear.

This story first appeared in the January 3, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION, ABC

Total occurrences: 2,476

The reality series launched in November 2003, each episode featuring a family in the U.S. in need of a new home. The design team, led by carpenter Ty Pennington, faces the challenge of conceptualizing, designing and building (or rebuilding, depending on the structure) a new home for the family in one week. Thus the plethora of product placement opportunities the show offers. Top brands used include Sears, where appliances and household items are purchased by members of the design team (seen left); Walt Disney World, typically where the team sends the family on vacation while the house is being designed, and Southwest Airlines, the airline of choice if the family needs to fly to its vacation destination.

AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, CW

Total occurrences: 2,462

It takes a model to know a model. Tyra Banks is the creator, host and executive producer of this reality series, also dubbed “ANTM,” which features a group of young women all vying to become the next big name in the world of modeling. Thanks to a $100,000 contract with Cover Girl Cosmetics, a modeling contract with Elite Model Management and a six-page spread and cover photo in Seventeen magazine, product placement is everywhere in this series. In addition, one of the most featured brands in 2007 was that of Glaceau SmartWater because it ran its own national model contest, which tied into the show — “ANTM” contestants were featured throughout the season drinking the products.

THE BIGGEST LOSER, NBC

Total occurrences: 2,393

The fitness reality TV series returned for its fourth season in September, with a new host (Alison Sweeney from “Days of Our Lives”); a new location: a studio lot, named the “Biggest Loser Campus,” and trainer Jillian Michaels (who appeared in seasons one and two), who returned to secretly train the contestants who originally thought they’d been eliminated. Eighteen overweight contestants battled to compete for the $250,000 grand prize, and it’s not just about the weight loss — the show is an elimination show, much like that of “Survivor.” And, of course, it wouldn’t be a fitness program without some fitness-related products in each scene. Top brands seen included 24 Hour Fitness Centers and Health Clubs, New Balance athletic footwear and Grand Lido Resort in Negril, Jamaica, where contestants stayed during part of the series.

DEAL OR NO DEAL, NBC

Total occurrences: 2,028

Hosted by Howie Mandel, “Deal or No Deal” is a game show in which contestants play and deal for a top prize of $1 million. Contestants select briefcases full of different amounts of money, ranging from 1 cent to $1 million. Without knowing the amount in each briefcase, contestants go through the process of picking “the” one, until its unsealing at game’s end. In September there was an NFL extravaganza, which might explain why the top three brands for most product placement were NFL-related (NFL Association, Indianapolis Colts and Riddell sporting equipment). For the special episode, the show’s set was transformed to look like a football field, while the models appeared in various football jersey dresses, and former NFL players, including Marcus Allen, Wayne Chrebet, Terrell Davis, Jerry Rice and Kordell Stewart, appeared on the show.

PUSSYCAT DOLLS PRESENTS: THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT DOLL, CW

Total occurrences: 1,934

The reality series made its debut last March and featured a behind-the-scenes view of a group of young women as they went through an audition to join the all-girl dance and burlesque ensemble the Pussycat Dolls. The auditions involved dancing and singing over the course of eight weeks, and contestants — who also had to live together — were eliminated throughout the series. The girls were groomed by the group’s founder, Robin Antin (who is also the series co-producer/creator). Top brands placed included Pussycat Dolls Lounge Nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Baldwin Pianos (used during auditions) and Chanel jewelry.

AMAZING RACE: ALL-STARS, CBS

Total occurrences: 1,893

“The Amazing Race: All-Stars” was the 11th installment of the five-time Emmy Award-winning reality race around the world. In this version, the contest featured 11 teams of two, all of whom had preexisting relationships and had appeared on previous races at some point. The season began in February 2007 and teams sported plenty of athletic apparel during the race, particularly from athletic giants Nike and Puma. Also, thanks to two of the most well-known reality TV faces, Rob and Amber (seen left), products such as Rob’s Red Sox baseball hat were seen all too frequently. No strangers to reality TV fans, the couple met on CBS’ “Survivor” and were later married on a two-hour special broadcast on the network.

HELL’S KITCHEN, FOX

Total occurrences: 1,755

The only cooking reality show to crack the top 10, “Hell’s Kitchen” is hosted by the fiery chef Gordon Ramsay (left), known in the restaurant world for his incredible palate — and his extensive use of foul language toward chefs and customers. In the series, two teams of aspiring chefs compete in various cooking challenges for most of the season. Once the number of players has been narrowed, they compete as individuals. The final chef this past season was given an opportunity to become head chef of a new Italian restaurant located inside Las Vegas’ Green Valley Ranch Hotel & Casino — one of the top brands placed on the series. The two other top brands were Penfolds Wine of Australia and Chef Revival Apparel, a more than 20-year-old manufacturer of clothing, footwear, cutlery and other professional tools for chefs.

BEAUTY AND THE GEEK, CW

Total occurrences: 1,718

The CW show, also known as “The Ultimate Social Experiment,” matches up female “beauties” with male “geeks,” who compete as couples for a shared $250,000, among other prizes. In 2007, the producers, who include Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg and Nick Santora, chose to add one team that consisted of a male beauty and a female geek. Three of the brands seen most often during the series included Dentyne Chewing Gum (the brand sponsored a sweepstakes for the show’s viewers to win a three-day, two-night trip for two to Las Vegas), Playboy (one contestant was a Playboy model) and Harvard University — two of the final contestants this past season were Harvard grads.

Source: Nielsen Product Placement Service, Place*Views; “Occurrences” equal the total number of product placements on that particular program from Jan. 1-Nov. 25, 2007

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