Monday, September 14, 2009

if you thought product placement was bad already...

With its typical breathless enthusiasm for the potential of any technological advance to advance profits, last week's Economist gave an inadvertent peek at the future when recounting luxury brands' furtive entry into the world of online sales.
Hamilton South, a founding partner of HL Group, a retail consultancy, thinks the future of luxury retail may not be online but on television. He believes that viewers will soon be able to use their remote controls to buy the clothing that appears in the programmes they are watching. Retailers need to stop thinking about making shopping entertaining, he says, and concentrate on making entertainment “shopable” instead.
Devising plotlines around conspicuous consumption will make trashy television even trashier, not that it needed any help on this front. But wailing over yet more product placement and ever-advancing advertising creep is pointless, since that train has long since left the station. Smart writers have been giving us brilliant examples of profiting from product placement, while tweaking the practice at the same time. (Since its inception, television programming has been nothing but a vehicle for advertising anyway.)

The trickle down to live theater was inevitable. That's not to say it would be anything new: performers have always tweaked their offerings to please the purse-holders ("Speak the speech..." anyone?). That's part of the art of theater: adapting for your audience (or your underwriters).

Our last production, The Third Seat, was glorified dinner theater, as waiters sold drinks and food before and after the show. On nights when sales were good, we didn't have to pay for our own.

If we had the opportunity to make another cross-marketing agreement with local businesses, COItc would do it in a heartbeat -- and we can only guarantee dozens of eyeballs. With potentially millions of eyes, the writer/producer who refuses to adapt their projects to accommodate an advertiser isn't principled, he's foolish.

That's not to say you can excuse compromise as artistic or beautiful. It's simply a market-based decision. No matter what level of achievement (or what side of the production table) you work on, the sooner you look at theater as a marketplace, the better off you'll be.

No comments:

Post a Comment