It’s no secret that advertising has become an integral part of our daily lives: in 2007, people saw an average of 5,000 advertisements per day – compared to 30 years previously, we might have only seen 2,000. There are interactive ads, billboards — we see advertising every day, 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We see advertising on shirts, pajamas, and even on TV shows… yes, within TV shows, not even just commercials. I mean, who hasn’t noticed that sometimes when watching your favorite show, the camera will linger for a moment too long on a brand logo? That’s advertising. NBC’s “30 Rock” had a running joke about their product placement of Snapple products in their show.
And so, if we’re seeing ads all day, every day – how do companies get our attention through the swarm of 5,000 plus advertisements? Well, two television networks have done some pretty cool things.
AMC, the network that produces the mega-hit zombie apocalypse show “The Walking Dead”, created an installation piece in Toronto’s Union Station to count down the days until the return of the show’s third season after its mid-year hiatus. The piece is pretty simple: two gross looking zombie (called “walkers” in the show) hands mounted to a billboard. The catch? Each day we get closer to the season’s return, a finger gets cut off and is left on the floor. Gross, but cool. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, they also had chained up “walkers” participating in the piece.
Netflix, the incredibly popular movie streaming service, has recently started to produce its own programming. Its original series, “House of Cards” — which is directed by David Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey and Kate Mara — was released in its entirety on the steaming site Friday, Feb. 1. Netflix is also producing a new season of the critically acclaimed comedy “Arrested Development”, which was dropped by its original network, Fox, in 2006.
To advertise for the return of “Arrested Development”, Netflix has largely played on the show’s cult following. It has included in its interface the large number of fake television shows and movies referenced in the show. If you search for the title of one of these “shows”, it appears like a real show on the site. For example, in “Arrested Development”, the imprisoned patriarch of the Bluth family makes a TV program about his life in prison. If you search for the title of the program, “Caged Wisdom”, you will be directed to the episode of “Arrested Development” in which the “show” is mentioned.
In addition to the above, Netflix has also capitalized on the popularity of the scene where Tobias (one of the show’s main characters) becomes an understudy for the Blue Man Group. In the scene he has painted his body blue and managed to get blue paint all over the house. When asked about the mess, Tobais replies with “I just blue myself.” The phrase has become so popular it has its own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor. Now when you search Netflix for any film or show with “blue” in the title, blue paint streaks appear on the side of the screen. When you click on the streaks, you are redirected to the exact scene in the season two premiere of “Arrested Development”, entitled “The One Where Michael Leaves”, where Michael, the show’s protagonist, is walking around the house and starts noticing the blue paint smudges everywhere.
In a world of marketing gone wild, companies are taking advertisements in new directions to get noticed. Some, like AMC, are going bigger with their scale, while others, like Netflix, target their audience and draw attention in subtle ways. I’m highly impressed with both methods.