Authenticity matters in TV show sponsorships

Product placement and sponsorships definitely have their value in marketing, but there is a certain point at which the mentions become, well, annoying.

Unfortunately, it looks like tonight’s episode of Master Chef is a prime example. I have been watching this show with my husband since the second season and am by no means a food expert. However, I enjoy watching the show to learn a little more about cooking and to see what “average” people can do with food. It’s inspiring!

Or at least it was, until Walmart all but took over the show.

Sponsorships can be very useful from a marketing standpoint. They help people learn about a product or company, and they help a company spread its message. However, there is a tasteful way to do this, and having the “contestants” of a “reality TV show” say such obviously scripted lines is not the way. It feels fake and it is frustrating to watch as a viewer (although it does provide a good talking point among fans on Twitter). Maybe this might be just what Walmart wanted. Perhaps they were thinking of this old adage when making their decision: Any “press” (in this case, social media press) is good “press”. 

I disagree. I shop at Walmart from time to time, and I doubt I will cease shopping there all together any time soon. However, sponsorships like this, that repeatedly and relentlessly try to “trick” me into thinking these nearly professional amateur chefs — and the master chefs themselves — actually say the things they say in real life is just absurd.

Master Chef and Walmart, I am not stupid. I know what real people sound like and what real recommendations sound like. A marketing tactic like sponsorship or product placement should not come off so obviously as a paid ad. In an age of speedy discussion and social networking discussion, being authentic has never been more important!

Do you have any other examples of absurd product placements in a TV show or movie? If you’re a marketer, how do you keep product placements/mentions or sponsorships “real”?

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