Product Placement

In the scene of the second episode of Fringe, a woman is opening a Kia Sedona. I guess Kia isn’t paying them for it, because they replaced the Kia logo with a generic one, but I guess it was too much trouble to replace the Sedona decal?

I don’t know why, but knowing which cars the characters are driving is a subject of interest to me. Particularly since there is so little consistency. One week, FringeDiv drives Ford, the next Lincoln. Those are both Ford products, but I’ve even seen it switch the Chevy, even though all of the vehicles look about the same. But the entire fleet changes from one week to the next.

This isn’t as bad as Chase was, though. On Chase, in three straight episodes, the main character had three separate smartphones. One week, she was specifically given an iPhone as a gift. But the next week, she was using what was conspicuously a Windows Phone 7 phone, and the next week a generic Androidy phone.

I don’t know why I am as fixated on some of this stuff as I am, but it’s something I’ve been keeping an eye out on for a while now. It used to seem that every laptop someone used was an Apple. At some point, I guess, Microsoft started paying up because you would get a black laptop with a generic Windows logo on the back of it. When it’s not one of these things, it’s as often as not going to be some generic-ish logo like on the pseudo-Kia. Usually a globe.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is how frequently I am seeing a non-standard OS. Maybe this has always been the case and I just never noticed it until recently. We all remember the Mac/PC hybrid in Office Space, right? It seems like a Mac right up until you get to the C-prompt as Peter is shutting down. Anyhow, on Person of Interest, Burke is using a non-standard OS that looks just a little Linuxy. I suppose if you want a generic-looking OS, Linux is a pretty good place to start from. I’ve never seen a brand, though (Ubuntu, SUSE, etc), so I guess the Linux makers aren’t paying up.

Now, if it were me, I would show it anyway. It’s the sort of thing that can get a segment of a show’s viewership talking (“Burke uses SUSE!”). Not a large segment, but a passionate one. Is there a ban on that? I mean, if I was making a movie, would I have to get Microsoft’s permission to show Windows? Lenovo’s to use my Thinkpad (without obscuring the logo)? I am thinking not, provided that you’re not relying on the product. Any Linux distro worth its grain of salt would likely have no problem with it. Nor would Microsoft, though presumably they’re at the point where they would want Microsoft to pony up. I actually wonder if that’s the reason for the shift away from Windows: “We’re not going to use your product in our product unless you pay us to.”

Or something like that.

Speaking of Fringe and endorsements, one of the things I wonder is the usage of Harvard in that show. Now, they’re using Harvard University when it’s actually Harvard College, but I’m not sure that distinction matters. And, in any event, they use college brand names all the time in a way that does actually lean on the product. By which I mean, if they want a super-intelligent (or snooty, for that matter) individual, they’ll say “He went to Harvard.” Which is actually different than happening to use a Thinkpad. You’re relying on the brand to give information about the character. I assume Harvard does not object, but can it? You rarely see the logo, which might be crossing a line, though Chuck’s title character flashed off a degree that looked very much like a Stanford degree. And, additionally, did not call it Stanford University or Stanford College, which might be the dodge that they may be using for Harvard, but rather “Leland Stanford Junior University” which is apparently Stanford’s full name (I did not know until I saw it on TV).

I do wonder how the rules on these things go.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

One Comment

  1. > I do wonder how the rules on these things go.

    Just looking at one example with which I have some passing familiarity, my understanding is that it’s up to individual wrangling between creative types and legal departments on both ends.

    Why “The Big Bang Theory” references Caltech directly, and Numb3rs did not, and neither did Real Genius… I suspect labyrinthine discussions.

Comments are closed.