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.