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Our celebrity-obsessed culture is driving the media’s move into shopping-enabled entertainment.  Many Americans no longer watch commercials on TV, so manufacturers have to find a new way to target customers—they strategically place products in popular shows to ensure they will be seen.  As shows feature more and more stealthy advertisements, start-up companies also are moving to the next level and offering products from shows for purchase.On SeenOn.com, consumers can shop for the clothes and accessories worn by characters in their favorite shows.  Dying to have the polka-dot dress worn by Diane Keaton in the film Because I Said So?  Just check the Web site to purchase it in your size.  Such brand and product recognition is not new to television or its consumers, but the new Web sites make it easier for customers to connect with the actual products.  Carrie Bradshaw wore Manolo Blahniks throughout Sex and the Cityand made the brand a household name.  Previously, consumers would have to spend considerable time trying to find the exact shoes from the show; today, they can watch a show and then log on and purchase everything that appeals to them.

Explicit product placement constitutes a $4 billion market, including Coke or Cheerios placed in digital media.  Product placement that includes non-identifiable products as well could be worth up to $100 billion if it considers everything seen in a show, such as the type of paint on the walls. Thousands of products appear in shows; on Desperate Housewives, Gabrielle’s Aston Martin is an explicitly placed product, but her makeup is less explicit.  How many people went out and bought an Aston Martin because she had one?  But how many people wanted to look as beautiful as she and would love to buy her makeup brand?

Sites like SeenON! also can take advantage of the benefits of impulse purchases, because consumers can purchase True Religion jeans at the very moment they see Izzie wearing them on Grey’s Anatomy.  During prime time television hours, SeenON! makes sales while conventional retailers are closed.  For consumers driven by celebrity fashions and the specific products they see on celebrities, these sites offer instant star status, rather than just eyeing them in Us Weekly, weeks after the celebrity has worn them.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some manufacturers and Internet retailers doing to stimulate demand for products that appear in the media? 

2. Why are product placements becoming so popular?

Marcelle S. Fischler, “‘Grey’s Anatomy’ … and Closet,” The New York Times, February 25, 2007.

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