TV’s Most Embarrassingly Over-the-Top Product Placement


There’s product placement. And then there’s product placement. As viewers, we understand that television is a business, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to lose ourselves in the illusion of a more glamorous and entertaining fantasy — which is why advertisements that are inelegantly shoved into a TV show’s plot can be a little jarring. Naturally, a company that throws money at a television series in oversized novelty check amounts deserves a shout out now and then. But some of the episodes we’ve rounded up below appear to have been wholly written by their sponsors.

Sex and the City sings the praises of

What’s that you say? Carrie Bradshaw landed a new gig narrating an Amazon commercial? This must be the next step in her domination of all media, now that her mediocre-yet-wildly-popular sex column has its very own bus ad. Oh. Wait. That’s just her lauding the website’s practicality in her stream of consciousness. (Not that we haven’t done that before.)

Cougar Town makes an entire episode about Diet Dr. Pepper

This episode of Cougar Town (which you can watch a clip of here) is all about the Diet Dr. Pepper. Literally. First major plot point involving Dr. Pepper: Bobby walks around on the golf course sporting Dr. Pepper logos from head to toe in hopeful anticipation that he’ll be serendipitously spotted by a Dr. Pepper rep and be offered an on-the-spot PGA sponsorship. (Doubly meta, as Dr. Pepper is the show’s sponsor.) Second major plot point involving Dr. Pepper: Bobby’s game suffers when he’s unable to keep the memory of catastrophic news headlines from distracting him — until he finds his inner peace in the sound of a Diet Dr. Pepper can being opened, and the beloved drink helps him get his game back. Cue closing credits. Cue Dr. Pepper craving. Cue lots of cash for Cougar Town.

How I Met Your Mother advertises stuff from the future!

There’s nothing particularly shocking about a syndicated episode of How I Met Your Mother‘s “subtle” ads for Bad Teacher… except for the fact that the movie came out about five years after this episode did. Either HIMYM is very prescient, or 20th Century Fox is exactly the time warp its name would suggest. It turns out, of course, that the company is not all that married to the past; in order to keep making money off of product placement, 20th Television, the show’s distributor, has been selling old space on syndicated episodes to new advertisers that know just how much HIMYM fans love reruns.

A Chuck character’s convenient obsession with Subway

Any Chuck viewer knows that “Big” Mike likes the Buy More, Morgan’s mother, and — most of all — Subway sandwiches. At least they do after this episode states the preference loud and clear… and then holds the delicious, wrapped Subway sandwich, in full, horizontal view, up to the camera. Watch the Subway-loving clip here.

Castle celebrates the crime-fighting power of a writer with a Windows Phone 7

Look at that fancy Windows Phone 7 go! It’s doing everything that Castle’s merely-human police officers can’t do to catch the bad guy. We think we’ll go buy a Windows Phone 7. Again, that’s the Windows Phone 7. (Windows Phone 7.)

AT&T MiFi saves the day on The Vampire Diaries

Jeremy really pulls out the big guns in this The Vampire Diaries episode (watch a clip here), and by the big guns, we mean his AT&T Mobile Hotspot MiFi, of course. Not only does this product make Jeremy and Bonnie’s dull evening in a candle-lit basement hideout more tolerable, but is also saves Bonnie and Elena’s relationship! Thank heavens for the AT&T Mobile Hotspot MiFi, available for an awesome price at a retailer near you!

Vampire Diaries Bing’d it

Of course, the AT&T MiFi moment is hardly the Vampire Diaries’ only blatant instance product placement. Good. Here’s another gem of theirs: The show not only promoted Bing, but the producers allowed themselves to be talked into using “Bing” as a verb. Nice try, Bing. Gretchen Wieners had a better shot at making fetch happen. (Watch the clip here.)

Half-naked Gossip Girls entertain themselves with Rock Band 3

Who throws an all-girl lingerie party and doesn’t play Rock Band 3? Mentioned by name here — complete with the “three” — Rock Band is every teenage boy’s wet dream, says Gossip Girl. Scantily clad women sold separately.

30 Rock makes fun of Verizon phones, but wants you to buy them anyway

It may be irreverent, but 30 Rock needs sugar daddies as bad as every other brainy sitcom with disappointing ratings. So what better way to work in product placement than with a joke about product placement?