Saturday, January 03, 2015

Product Placement '50s style

Product placement is hardly new. Back in the '50s sponsors were incorporating their products into shows on a regular basis. Here's an example from MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY starring Danny Thomas. Notice how artfully they work in the commercial. If you weren't paying strict attention, why, you'd never even know.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Subtle!

David in Cincinnati said...

Takes me back to the spontaneous, completely improvised cereal commercials my family used to sing.... good times, good times.

Jeff Quest said...

Sorry, but nothing beats the Flintstones selling cigarettes - http://youtu.be/Bvt8skgm2l8

Gary said...

One of Andy Griffith's famous taglines was used only in the commercials he did, and never in the actual show: "I appreciate it, and good night!"

Canda said...

This wasn't part of the show. This was an actual commercial. Sometimes casts would do a commercial in character. If this was done as a tag to a show, I guess it was so blatant it was considered funny.

Incidentally, good intros on TCM, but please relax a little more next time. It felt like you were racing a bit.
Plus, we need a closer angle on the camera. Rather than that side cutaway in the middle of an intro, you would be better served by cutting to some photos during the intro.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Angela Cartwright was cute as a button. Marjorie Lord wasn't hard on the eyes (and neither was her real-life daughter, Anne Archer).

Thought intros would have been better if they could have loaned you some of Ben's furniture. The blue screen seemed outer-worldly or psychedelic and the transitions were a little stiff (blame the director on that). Forgot how annoying Sandy Dennis's voice could be. G-e-o-r-r-g-g-g-e-e!

Looking forward to premiere of GALAVANT on ABC tomorrow night. Can we expect a review from you?

Just started reading Warren Littlefield's book on his days at NBC. Saw CHEERS finished 77th out of 77 shows its first year. Today, would CHEERS have survived such a brutal first season, even with network support?

jjg said...

This isn't about product placement, but Cheers.
I was listening to a podcast at "On The Page" with Carole Kirschner and she was talking about the pilot episode, "The Shrine". How hard was that to sell to the execs? Was there a lot of material (the religious takes) that was cut out?

VP81955 said...

And on radio, let's not forget how Don Wilson cleverly worked in ads for Jello on "The Jack Benny Program," or Harlow Wilcox did likewise for Johnson Wax on "Fibber McGee & Molly."

AAllen said...

VP81955: that was my first thought. The local public radio stations used to play old radio comedies, but they had to edit around the commercials that were in the body of the show. When Camel sponsored Jack Benny, they REALLY had to edit around the advertisement. I would have appreciated hearing the shows as they were broadcast, but then reality happens.

Anonymous said...

Whereas on Becker they were a little more subtle in placing the government mandates PSAs into the show so CBS could sell a few more ads.

The Minstrel Boy said...

Great job on TCM. Love Simon's movies, and you did well.

DwWashburn said...

The best writers to write commercials into the program were the writers for the Jack Benny radio show. It would in most cases be part of the plot. Nearly every radio sitcom tried to follow their lead after the Benny show was so successful hawking Jell-O, Grape Nuts Flakes, and Lucky Strikes.

Anonymous said...

Product placement goes way back. When listening to old Jack Benny radio shows you'd be hard pressed to know when the story stopped and the commercial started because the segue was subtle and the humor built right into it. -MARV@MARVWOLFMAN.COM

Dan Ball said...

Here's my favorite TV skit-mercial:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM8-abHlQX0

"Is it just me or does this 'Whoo-pie' person bear a striking resemblence to Guinan?"

Mike Barer said...

I loved this show, I guess in the 50s, characters could be of ethnic background if they were musicians ie Danny Williams, Ricky Ricardo.

Ed Pell said...

I remember Sheena, Queen a the Jungle, receiving a visit from Mister Peanut, miniscule and all during an episode.

Victor Velasco said...

As a kid, I thought it was kinda weird in the 'Beach Party' films how the characters would go out of their way to tell each other how good the KFC and Dr. Pepper they were eating and drinking was. Who knew from product placement?

VincentS said...

Smooth! And you were great last night, Ken.

LouOCNY said...

Could TCM at least spell checked "Frazier"?? sheesh. It could have been worse, I guess - : "Cheerz"?
"MASCH"?

good job, Ken!

Tim said...

What was interesting about that kind of cast commercial is that they usually played off the plot of the show in some way or another, by continuing some plot thread or playing off of something that happened in the show.

People had grown used to integrated commercials on radio comedies, so wouldn't have thought anything about these. They were pretty much the norm.

I LOVE LUCY was sponsored originally by Philip Morris Cigarettes, and in at least one episode, Fred and Ricky are in a drug store. On the wall behind them? A large advertisement for Philip Morris Cigarettes. Lucy and Desi did the final commercial on LUCY, but as themselves, not as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.

Cast commercials didn't die out until the mid 1960s. You can find the cast of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW doing them for products like Kent Cigarettes. One of those I have has Laura showing up at the office, angry with Rob because she saw him talking to a pretty chorus girl. Rob explains that he was just giving the girl a Kent cigarette. Well, that's different! Kents are too good not to share!

Cast commercials died out because by the mid 1960s it was no longer the norm for a show to have a single sponsor. Shows were multi-sponsored, as they are today. If that hadn't happened, the practice might have continued, and we'd have had the gang on CHEERS extolling the virtues of Colgate Toothpaste or Frasier and Niles explaining why they will only drive a Ford.

Tim said...

Here are three examples of the cast of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW plugging Kent Cigarettes. Apparently Laura's jealousy was a recurring theme in these. The one here about the cigarette girl is different from the one I have about the chorus girl.

I love the suggestion that cartons of cigarettes make a wonderful Christmas gift!

The fourth commercial has the cast plugging Crest Toothpaste.

http://youtu.be/iBVWMqwfNFo

http://youtu.be/01KGLWEPfIE

http://youtu.be/pSpNViOJpL8

http://youtu.be/Kxd2HLmywrc

DBenson said...

I remember Staples had some kind of tie-in with "The Office", which seemed weird as Staples would have been a competitor to Dunder-Mifflin. One semi-spot had Kevin using a Staples-bought paper shredder to make cole slaw. Don't think it lasted too long.

Also remember seeing episodes of the Jack Benny TV show that worked State Farm Insurance plugs into the middle of sketches. Meanwhile, Uncle Jed and Granny were citified enough to smoke Marlboros. Vividly remember a full page, full color newspaper ad -- when color on a weekday was very rare -- with Granny pointing a shotgun at the reader.

"Laugh In" was sponsored by a shampoo -- Clairol? -- and for a few weeks at least the show would open with the same quick blackouts: Judy Carne pitching the shampoo and getting smacked with a bucket of water (semi-logically), Goldie Hawn as a ballerina quacking like a duck (illogically), and Ruth Buzzi in her Gladys character saying "I wish they'd let me buy some." All had the laugh track on.

If memory serves, Dave Thomas had a short-lived sketch show sponsored by Taco Bell, and they incorporated it into an opening number. When some controversy caused Taco Bell to pull out, they did a new opening identifying their sponsor as a fictional small ethnic restaurant.

Going way back, a book called "The Great Radio Heroes" recounted how decoders, signal rings and other sponsor premiums would figure prominently in the story lines of kiddie adventures, about and beyond "Christmas Story's" Ovaltine plug.

Hamid said...

I've never seen it but the cheap E.T. ripoff Mac & Me, widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made, has entered legend for being one long commercial for McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Skittles.

Fantastic Four, which I did see, was an awesome commercial for Burger King, Pepsi, Dell and about 50 other brands, but some superheroes kept getting in the way of the logos which was really annoying.

metrocard said...

Ken, this raises a question about product placement on the shows you've worked on, and in particular on CHEERS. It seems like there would have been clamoring by advertisers to always have Norm order a Bud Light or something, but it's refreshing that a brand name is only called out infrequently. Do you have any insight into why that may have been?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: in your many reviews I don't think you've looked at any of Amazon's shows - particularly TRANSPARENT (which IMO is staggeringly good) and ALPHA HOUSE (in which I wish so much that one of the four senators sharing the house was a woman).

I'd be interested in your take on them.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Hey. Is that the actual honest-to-Titans-Tower Marv Wolfman? Love your work.

Anonymous said...

I’m surprised they didn’t have Danny Thomas do commercials for glass-top tables.

Charles H. Bryan said...

The saddest thing to me about that clip is that I'm old enough to remember when Post Toasties were popular.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I thought about that, too. Gilbert Gottfried refers to it frequently on his podcast.

Mickey said...

Dang it, not one person among my friends and family was thoughtful enough to give me a specially decorated Christmas carton of cigarettes this year.

Never would have that nice Rob and Laura Petrie would have been peddling lung cancer and emphysema.

George said...

More recently the TV show "Chuck" had a close tie-In with Subway, where they had the cast eating the sandwiches as a pert of the plot, and a contest where you bought Subway sandwiches to make sure Chuck stayed on the air.

Paul Duca said...

Canda..you are correct--this commercial and others, even if they had a through line connecting it to the plot of the episode, were clearly separated from the show itself.

Dbenson....not just kids' radio shows did that. STELLA DALLAS once had a promotion tie-in offering a piece of costume jewelry connected to the current story line--Stella rescuing her daughter from the clutches of an Arab sheik. However, the factory making the jewelry hit a production snag. The show's writers had to keep the daughter fighting off the advances of the sheik weeks longer than they originally intended, until the items could be sent to listeners.

Buggy White said...

W. C. Fields used to call for his son during his radio show, yelling "Chester, Chester Fields!" at times, when Chesterfield was definitely not the cigarette company sponsoring his program!

Buttermilk Sky said...

The transitions that Marlin Perkins had to read on "Wild Kingdom" were so legendary that Robert Klein incorporated them into his act: "A mother mongoose will stomp a cobra to protect her young. Mutual of Omaha will protect your young with its five-point cobra-stomping plan..."

DBenson said...

And how did we forget the James Bond movies? I don't think you ever saw a fake name unless it was a supervillain's front.

"Moonraker" had a car chase past a series of outsized billboards that had the audience groaning. It wasn't clear if the filmmakers were making an actual joke of it or not.

John said...

The Danny Thomas Show blooper reel contains a bunch of botched pitches for General Foods, and if you do a search around the interwebs, you can find Danny and Sid Melton pitching cereal on the golf course or stylized animated Danny and Marjorie Lord singing the Post jingle for Grape Nuts.

(The good thing for Thomas and Sheldon Leonard was their willingness to go all-in on hawking General Food products was pretty much repaid by having General Foods sponsor all their CBS shows in the 1950s and 60s.)

Barry Traylor said...

Being a big fan of vintage radio shows I have always liked the way commercials for Johnson's Wax were part of each show on Fibber McGee and Molly. Back then most shows only had one sponsor but to my knowledge it was the only show that did this.

Pat Reeder said...

For Christmas, I downloaded a lot of Christmas-themed old radio shows to play in the car. The Jack Benny programs were particularly clever in how they segued into commercials. Really made me want a Lucky Strike, and I don't even smoke.

Back in those days, shows didn't just have a single sponsor, the show might actually be produced by the sponsor's ad agency. We now remember them as the Bob Hope show or the Fred Allen show, etc. But Bob Hope actually starred on "The Pepsodent Show," Fibber McGee and Molly were on "The Johnson's Wax Program," and Fred Allen, who couldn't keep a sponsor, had the Ipana toothpaste "Hour of Smiles," Hellman's "Salad Bowl Revue," and even "The Sal Hepatica Revue," a show named after a laxative, which Fred always looked as if he could use.

J. Walter Thompson used to produce a lot of shows. Carroll Carroll wrote a long-running column on advertising for Variety. He was also a comedy writer who worked on many of those great shows for all the big stars, but he was actually employed by JWT, who moved him around from show to show as needed. He wrote a book about it called "My Life With..." that you can still dig up on Amazon. When I was an aspiring comedy writer in college, I wrote him a fan letter about that book, and he was kind enough to send a very encouraging reply. If you're at all interested in what it was like to be a top comedy writer in the network radio days, I highly recommend it.

CarolMR said...

You were terrific on TCM, Ken! And quite handsome.

Carson said...

I was visiting my folks over the holidays and on Friday we watched The Odd Couple. You did great - and made an excellent pick for the first film of the Neil Simon festival you're hosting. Even though we've never met, I've been reading you for several years and, of course, am a fan of your TV & screenwriting, so I felt some misplaced pride in seeing you up there, introducing the movies you love.

As for the Danny Thomas show Post Toasties ad - at least it was done in the tag as a commercial, and not hamfistedly put into the middle of the show like every Ford ad on USA or Fox shows. If I hear one more cop of FBI agent spend 20 seconds talking about his review camera or built-in GPS I'll scream. I know the extra money for the show is large and helps keep them on the air, but man - there has to be a better way.

sanford said...

A little Make Room for Daddy History. Jean Hagen was the first wife. According to Wikipedia she and Danny did not get along. She quit after the 3rd year. Sherry Jackson was Rusty's sister. She left a few years later. At the start of the 4th season they said the Jean Hagen character died. (by the way she was in Singing in the Rain). They brought in Lord to be a nurse to care for Rusty when he had the measles. Danny fell in love with here and they married. Angela Cartwright was her daughter. After Jackson left they brought in Penny Parker to take over that role. She was just on for 14 episodes. She got married and was pretty much not talked about again. The show was on from 1953 until 1965. It probably outstayed its welcome after being on so long. It is on ME TV but usually in the middle of the night or early morning. I am guessing it doesn't hold up very well today.

John said...

Some episodes hold up pretty well, some are so un-PC you'd fear for the future of St. Jude's in Memphis is they ever ran some of those episodes on a regular cable channel.

(It's interesting to watch the Season 4 episodes posted online -- while they killed off Jean Hagen after she left the show at the end of Season 3, they opted to pick Season 4 up supposedly a year after she died, and with Danny wheelchair-bound for several episodes with a broken leg. Dealing directly with death in a sit-com was still a no-go in 1956, and the wheelchair part made the widower Williams as sympathetic as possible.)

VP81955 said...

Quaker Oats and its related products sponsored "Bewitched" for a few years, and I've seen a print ad from that era where Elizabeth Montgomery was hawking one of its cereals -- though one wasn't whether she was doing it in Liz mode or Samantha mode.

Bill O said...

Another source,Classic Tv Showbiz, said that Thomas fired Hagen - main reason she wasn't pretty enough.

Curt Alliaume said...

As a kid I wondered why Pebbles Flintstone was chugging grape juice every few minutes - I only found out a few years ago Welch's was a latter-day sponsor of The Flintstones.

sanford said...

I don't buy the story that Thomas fired Hagen because she was not pretty enough. If that was the case he would have fired her after one year. I am not sure if the show was his idea as I couldn't find any info on that. By the way the show started on ABC and ran there for the first 3 years. The has to be a story there. The show was filmed at Desilou studios but I don't know if they had any ownership in the show.

Mark said...

MRFD was filmed by - by not owned by - Desilu.

Jean Hagen quit because she disliked working with Thomas. She owned a percentage of the show while she was there, and her episodes have never been syndicated. Sherry Jackson also didn't like working on the show - she hated how she was treated and yelled at. She tried to quit when Hagen did, but they held her to her contract. She did appear in fewer episodes for her final two years on the show.

Years later, Hagen guest starred in an "Andy Griffith Show" episode, produced by Thomas. Thomas made an effort to go to the set to say hello, and sources say they had a friendly reunion. Jackson also returned for an episode of the 1970 "Make Room for Granddaddy" revival seres.

Bill O said...

Maybe. Thomas wouldn't have fired Hagen in the first year's launch. Too damaging to a show just starting out. I remember the studio put out a press release stating she was going to "resume her film career", that era's equivalent to "want to spend more time with the family". The only film I noticed her in post-Thomas was Ray Milland's low budget "Panic in Year Zero". And to be sexist about it, Marjorie Lord was hotter, tho I got the impression much less independent. But a lot of years ago...