I don’t find the product placement of Lady Gaga’s Telephone video subtle at all. It runs smoothly and is well integrated but it’s not subtle. If I was a brand manager for any of these products I would be delighted, no matter how much we paid as the associations would be worth every penny.
Branding used to be subtle, like the breakfast cereals on Seinfeld, then it suddenly exploded and we expected to see product placement – just look at Sex In the City (Carrie’s notebook), to skits about Snapple on 30 Rock. Product placement has been going on a long time, though: in the silent film Wings, released in 1927 (the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture) there is product placement for Hershey’s chocolate, and even earlier in the 1925 movie The Lost World a Corona typewriter.
Product placement is no longer inappropriate, but it used to be. Somehow if you noticed a product in a film it was like a faux pas of some sort.
Now it’s something to be respected, because everything has become a brand – even Lady Gaga is a brand – not just a person or artist. The House of Gaga is so popular that we want to buy into it. Lady Gaga is one of the Creative Directors of Polaroid, so it only makes sense that she use a Polaroid in her video. Virgin Mobile, Plenty of Fish (an online date service), Hewlett Packard, Chevrolet (the car has a pretty cool name: it’s a "Silverago SS 502, Pussy Galore" and is the same car Uma Thurman drove in Kill Bill), Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip, Honey Bun and Heartbeat headphones are all in the video and relevant to the story – the Diet Coke hair curlers are my favourite! The video is like a list of what’s hot what’s not – HP in, Apple out, Virgin Mobile in, AT&T out. I don’t remember the last time I had Miracle Whip with Wonder Bread and I’ve never had a Honey Bun but would I try it – might be fun for a kitsch picnic.
Really it’s quite an efficient way of working. It’s expensive to make a video – especially a 9-minute one – so why not find the right product placement and create some sort of synergy.
It’s not about selling out anymore, and it will get to the point where pop artists who are not able to associate themselves with big brands will not be considered that good. It might also become an opportunity for lesser known bands to have a platform. Youtube gives bands a place to launch their video and with product placement they now how way to afford the video.