Playhouse Disney mixing business with pleasure

Playhouse Disney, an Astral-owned television station for kids, does not accept traditional 30 second spots. Like their big brother, the Family Channel, the station cross markets with toy and snack companies and fills their programming with product placements. This partnership is growing, according to Media in Canada.

The emergence of product placement and cross promotions in media is an interesting development for marketing communicators. Whether its PVRs, migrations to the Web, or just frequent bathroom trips, there is a consensus that television commercials as a dominant advertising platform is on its way out. Product placement bridges the gap in a way by integrating products in the programming so it can’t be fast forwarded or ignored.

I watched the premiere episode of the new CBC series The Border and I lost count of how many cups of Tim Horton’s coffee were displayed. While it irks me to see my TV littered with products, I can’t argue that it reminded me that this very American-looking show was in fact Canadian. Tim Horton’s means Canada. And if that connection is made in my mind, then Tim Horton’s has done its job. And who can forget “Sansa” soda, the fake TV soda of choice (witnessed prominently in the opening credits to Roseanne). Real products in television shows does lend credibility to the realism of the setting even if the Tim Horton’s cup is somehow immaculately lit every time someone takes a swig.

What does all this have to do with marketing PR? Well, it’s because marketing communicators are doing the exact same thing. They are placing products in unpaid, news media in order to lend credibility and gain attention by being part of the content, not bookending the content with advertising.

What does it all mean? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe the case can be made that PR professionals are the logical choice to lead the “integrated marketing opportunities” that media and brands are looking for. Or maybe its proof that credibility in content is declining and that PR is becoming less necessary as a media buy can achieve better results with less time wasted on relationships.

What it tells me is that I better be careful when a placed product is making my eyes roll because that may just be the new PR.

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Side note: The Media in Canada article doesn’t identify the Astral director until she is quoted for the second time. -6 points for Media in Canada for the journalistic error and -8 for Astral who probably wrote it that way in the press release.

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