Hawaii Five-0 as Subway Shill? The Best and Worst Product Placement on TV

Advertisers provide the money that pays for our favorite TV shows. But DVRs have made it easy to skip right over them, so advertisers are getting progressively bolder in what they see as their only viable alternative—product placement. What used to be a lingering shot on a Coke can or a box of Pampers is now getting ridiculous. Take, for example, the 50-second commercial for Subway that ground the action to a halt on this week’s Hawaii Five-0:

The New York Times characterizes the sequence as “jarring, disruptive and insulting,” and if I was an avid fan of Hawaii Five-0, I might feel the same way. As it stands, I just found it extremely funny. Nothing says “tropical cop-show cool” like an obese man gorging himself on Subway 12-inches and singing the praises of Jared for a solid minute!

Yes, that scene would definitely qualify as "product placement done badly." But it needn’t always be that way. Here are some other examples of “brand integration,” as the suits call it, done both well, and poorly.



GOOD: Heineken and Mad Men

A show about advertising admittedly has a leg up on the competition, but Mad Men elevates product placement to a veritable art form, weaving it seamlessly into the action and selling us something while simultaneously offering commentary on the act of selling. Not all of the brands on the show have paid for the privilege, but Heineken is one that did. Here is a scene where the “frosty beer from Holland” is featured front and center. Did you feel dirty sitting through it? Probably not. (Click here to watch the sadly unembeddable video on YouTube.)



BAD: Ford Explorer and House

House has experienced some very public budget cuts that led to the exit of one of the show's most popular characters, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Still, the strain is showing, particularly in this scene in which Odette Annable’s Dr. Adams describes the curve-hugging wonders of the Ford Explorer, accompanied by close-ups of the car's bumper. Not even Charlene Yi wondering out loud why she’s being lectured to about Ford technology can distract viewers from the fact that they're being subjected to a very blatant Ford ad in the middle of their favorite medical drama. Nice try though, Charlene.



GOOD: Apple and Modern Family

Wedged into Modern Family’s amazing first season was an episode in which Phil obsessed over Apple’s then-brand-new tablet device, the iPad. People complained that it felt like a commercial, but the show's writers swore Apple paid them nothing to incorporate the product into the show. Most importantly, it was perfectly in-character for Phil, and the episode was funny. So a placement well done, I say, because I still think Apple had a hand in it.



BAD: Honda and The Bachelor

There really is no basement on shamelessness when it comes to reality TV and plugs; the two go together, hand-in-depraved-hand (American Idol's coke cups and Ford commercials, and Top Chef's GE Monogram-equipped kitchens come to mind). But we'll take any excuse to replay this segment from The Bachelor, in which Ben and his harem ooh and aah over a Honda on-board computer’s “wallpaper option” before hopping out of the car, stripping down to bathing suits, and skiing down a San Francisco street covered in quickly melting snow. Coincidentally, this “date” is dumb enough to melt your brain.



GOOD: Nissan and Fringe

Fox has made no secret of the financial challenges an ambitious show like Fringe poses for the network, especially with the ratings the show's been pulling in. In moments like these, product placement can be a fan’s best friend. (Subway may not have done Hawaii 5-0 any favors, but it helped saved Chuck from cancellation.) A shot of a steering wheel and a navigation system seems a small price to pay for, you know, actually having your favorite show stay on the air. So more, more, more!


What are the best and worst examples of TV product placement you've seen?

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Let us not forget the entire episode of "The Office" featuring and paid for by Staples, when Dwight went to work there after (finally) being fired from DM.
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except Staples actually fits since show is about The Office. It works .
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This is going back in history a little, but on the soap "Passions", one of the characters became a rep for a cosmetic offshoot of Avon aimed at teens, which was coincidentally one of the show's sponsors. She would go on about her business and the money she was making, as well as telling her friends about specific products.
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I think one of the bests is this one from chuck, when morgan made a joke about the zune;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqTYI55K1eo&feature=youtube_gdata_player
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All of the original shows on the USA Network have blatant and sometimes plot deadening placement ads. Some shows it's natural, but on others it's just short of "breaking through the 4th wall."



It seems weird that on "White Collar" the FBI agents get a different car every week, including compact hybrids, for their high speed chases.
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While I enjoy H5O I find their blatant carist worldview to be very disturbing. The 'good guys' drive the new Chevy Camaros which is fine because Chevrolet is their big sponsor. But I have noticed a troubling trend on this series where all of the 'bad guys' drive Ford vehicles. I can already tell if a guest on the show is good or bad by what vehicle they put them in. This anti-Ford bias just divides us as a people and presents a distorted view of reality. Criminals and evil masterminds in Hawaii drive all makes of vehicles including Chevrolet while those on the side of law enforcement drive various makes including Ford. I call on the producers of H50 to stop this blatant carist anti-Ford bias and help untie us as a great nation where the vehicle we drive doesn't have anything to do with if we are on the side of good or evil. If H50 continues to show the 'bad guys' driving Ford products then at least be realistic and show the new Mustang easily outrunning the new Camaro. Only in the fantasies of Hollywood can a Camaro ever think of challenging the mighty Boss Mustang!
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I noticed that too. Love the Camaro! But in movies and other shows, Fords are Police cars. lol Subway was funny, however the guy should stop at salad and diet cokes.
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Well, they do pay the bills, so we either put up with a few seconds of subliminal messaging or say bye, bye to the program.
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I'd rather laugh at ad plugs than see commercials between the show-Especially Idol that runs over alot. As you say it does pay the bills!
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Dr Pepper in 90210 (which I saw on The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) was the worst I've ever seen, followed by the Subway placements on Chuck (which might actually not be as bad as Hawaii Five-0's placements...WOW)
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In real life people buy name-brand products.

In real life people talk about name-brand products.

Having characters talk about name-brand products instead of generic products makes them more real-life.



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I was so pissed off about this, I bitched about it for hours afterwards, it is offensive. I blame tivo. If someone hadn't made something to skips commercials, companies wouldn't had to find a way to get around that.
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totally agree. I wish Neilsen ratings would count Tivo/Dvr and Hulu viewing. Not fan's fault networks Purposely pit shows against each other in same time slot and nights. Then complain when their shows don't get counted.

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There was product placement involving cars on an episode or two of "Monk" and "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" that pulled me right out of the story. Both of those shows are not on the air anymore, but I'll never forget the horrible product placement.
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What abou this week's The Middle and the new VW Passat ?
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LOL Since she sells cars as career on the show, it fits ok. But nobody sells Nissans on Fringe.
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imo product placement isn't all that bad when done well but i think as in the case of the live action thunderbirds movie by johnathon frakes (com ryker in star trek next gen) that was the worst i've seen...



and when you look for them you'll see ads EVERYWHERE... i personally don't bother i only buy what i want and funny thing is they are rarely promoted in a show and i skip ads all the time...



these examples show the more obvious, but not all shows have them like tru blood and terra nova now if terra nova goes down this road we know we are in trouble...
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What about Glee's Chevy ad? LOL I actually that one though it did not fit. Movie ads like musicals do fit or teen products. But Not Victoria's Secret. Those belong on Superbowl Sunday next to Gohodaddy ads. lol oops mispelled.
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Wait...Chuck being saved from cancellation is a good thing? The mind boggles.
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if only the show is on it's last ever season (5) unless theres a miracle....
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Wait...Chuck being saved from cancellation is a good thing? The mind boggles.
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The worst is all the Toyota shilling in Bones. The best ever was on Eureka. They worked it in obviously, poking fun at the idea, by having Global Dynamic become sponsored by companies to help their budget. I remember them bringing in big physical ads for deodorant, I think, and maybe a credit card too. It was super obvious and the writers had a good time making it funny.
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lol or insurance ads sponsoring Ghost Hunters or Face Off. funny. Dvice fit yrs ago. I like interactive ads TurboTax had with Jay. Psych is the best at plugs and Burn Notice.
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Worst was Nissan in Heroes.
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NEESSAN VERSAH!!!!!!!!!
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Futurama and Slurm. So obvious.
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I actually feel like fringe's nissan steering wheel deal deserves 'worst.' i kinda expect dumb in dumb shows like bones and hawaii 5-0 (both of which i'm a fan of) but i felt that steering wheel shot was insulting and distracted me for a good several moments.
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Me too - it was a slap in the face - it took me right out of the storyline.
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Eureka and Degree was terrible. Was Product placement that wasn't even interesting.
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Burn Notice has pushed Hyundai more than a few times, but at least the Genesis Coupe turns out to be a decent little sports car.



Nissan got a little pushy with Heroes, but the first season was at least cute, the second season's pimping was awful.
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I was SO distracted by Patty Hewes on Damages drinking from canned beer that I had to rewind because all I could think of was "Oh sure, the hoity toity rich lawyer is NOT gonna drink beer from the can!"
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Bones and Toyota. It gets irritating sometimes with all the praises.
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Does anyone have any idea about how much money was paid in each case of above mentioned product placement? How much it helps the shows to stay on air or saying it plainly how many extra episodes does it buy for us the viewers?
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Ads give me a chance to take personal errands before show returns but I like entertaining ads like ''Cheesy Goodness'' from Kraft. Liquid Gold. LOL food ads should be on during food related shows. Unless super funny, any time.
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You've left out the millions spent on product placement in movies.
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It's TV.com not Movie.com... Just saying lol
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Hawaii-5-0 DOES make up for it with their ongoing built-in Chevy ads, tho...
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Tired of the every other week reruns though, it helped that Cake Boss was on last week to fill the gap.
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And I remember several episodes of Danno using his Windows Mobile phone...
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I'm surprised you forgot vampire diaries as a worst lol. For a good though, I still like subway on chuck. Its just at the obvious point where it makes you laugh everytime big mike has one in his hands.
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exactly! bing and those at&t livechats... it is so forced...
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@mifuneko i totally agree with u dude but the subway thing was on television for years now with chuck and now it is going to Hawaii five 0 i think we may see allot more in the future. i love Hawaii five 0 but i didn't like that moment for one bit even though it was kinda funny.
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That Subway commercial in Hawaii Five-0 was one huge WTF moment :|
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i would love to see firefly come back and be paid for interlay by it. Each week they can ship illegal versions of futuristic products by companies like Apple or Microsoft, the food machine can be upgraded to just produce subway sandwiches complete with wrappings and serenity can become a ford firefly, exactly the same design with just a ford badge on the front.
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Bones and Toyota. I noticed long ago all the characters drove Toyotas but to then have to listen to a character talk up a car is really annoying. BTW I like Toyota.
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Ad executives should not write TV shows.
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I'm still enjoying the Subway product placements on Chuck.
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Literally the most jarring example I've ever seen was in 90210 this week... they incorporated a State Farm advert into their plot. I actually don't watch the show but someone thought it was so funny they pointed it out.

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One of the worst offenders in this area is the momentarily-jars-you-right-out-of-the-episode product placements for Toyota in *numerous* episodes of "Bones." Once was bad enough but after three or four (or more?) instances of this, I find it irreversibly taints those affected episodes.

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Americans have lost the ability to be subtle with their placements.
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Sony in the trailer for Resident Evil Retribution was pretty bad!
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I know not much is expected out of soap operas and they are struggling enough as it is, but General Hospital has some pretty ridiculous examples of this. They had an entire month where, I guess it was "heart healthy" month, but for some reason every character lugged a bag of Prego spaghetti sauce and V8 tomato juice around and proceeded to lecture their family members into making more "heart healthy" decisions. They also recently had a mother making her child chocolate milk with Hershey's chocolate sauce and she was assuring her child that he was getting his favorite Hershey's chocolate milk with bottle in the shot. Oh also when the movie Nine was first coming out they had an entire episode where a couple was deciding that on their next date they were going to see that movie and they talked about it the entire episode. I know the show is struggling but be they could stand to be a little smoother about those kinds of things.
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lol actually ad plugs in soaps started decades ago by soap products I believe. Especially Y/R. Ancient Chinese Secret laundry ads mostly.
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as much as i love eureka dear god does it have some awful product placement every now and then. the degree episode being the worst offender. herp derp lets make an episode where degree saves the fricken world from a second sun. its funny how the big bang theory is the only show i tollerate when it comes to this and they don't even technically have product placement since 9 times out of 10 they hide the lables of everything. i actually make fun out of it by pointing out when they had a lable showing when i watch reruns with others.
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but Degree plugs did not kill Eureka , moving it to Mondays did. Though am kind of ready for it to go.
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I can't think of a good example right now, but I know they exist; I'm talking about when the shows blatantly acknowledge that they are engaging in product placement (30 Rock's done it, I'm sure) in a self-deprecating manner.



The subway one was pretty bad... but not all that bad given the guy's character (would have believed it more if he had made his own gross concoctions, adding things from his truck, but hey).
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I would put House ad for the car in the same category as 30 Rock's product placements, because it did make fun of itself. I also didn't mind the fat-free Pop Tarts at the end of a Seinfeld episode. One placement I found somewhat annoying a web meeting product on CSI: Miami on the same night the same product was used on 24, like that was a coincidence. I wonder if that Subway ad on Hawaii Five-O took the place of an ad they would have otherwise cut away to.
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House plugs are fun, especially the shoes or hospital beds HilRom or Xray machines etc. Grey's does same thing. Those need medical ads like Tylenol or Norplant etc. [example only], sanitary items.
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The subway placement was the worst I've ever seen!!
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Oh yeah, and those couple of times where Brennan was praising the automatic parking feature of her Toyota in Bones made me throw up in my mouth a little.
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The clothing company that paid Jersey Shore to make sure their clothes would *not* appear in the show deserves an honorable mention.
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On Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe says he can't afford mass advertising... sorry, "can't a Ford it!"
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LOL But we like Mike, love the Lee jean ads. I wish Mike would be guest investigator on Taps since he already does voice over.
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Hyundai in burn notice....best easily
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The Ford wasn't that bad; Toyota on Bones is so much worse, but the subway was just pathetic.
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Also the inane amount Sunkist was advertised on One Tree Hill in season 4.
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Bing on The Vampire Diaries is just awful. It makes viewers believe that people actually Bing stuff.
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BONES and TOYOTA omg are those obvious. And TVD and BING have a laugh track worthy history as well.
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Subway on Chuck was both good and awful...the product placement was terrible, but as fans we learned to accept and look past it because we knew it was keeping the show alive.
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This was definitely the worst I've seen. Maybe it wouldn't have bugged me if I thought the show was in danger and cared about its fate. I would put up with a lot for Chuck or Fringe, but Hawaii Five-oh hasn't earned it.
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