Last night, I watched this week’s episode of Modern Family on ABC. I love this show – it’s got great writing, loaded with wit and truly one of the best sitcoms I’ve seen in a while.
While I enjoyed this week’s episode, laughing out loud in spots, it also struck me as a 30-minute commercial for Apple. You see, one of the dad’s in the show, Phil, was celebrating his birthday – and all he wanted was the new iPad. He planned to get up early Saturday to wait in line and make sure he was one of the first to get one since it’s so important for him to be an “early adopter.” (Love that line!)
Of course, his wife offered to wait in line for him – but she has a history of screwing up his birthday and this one was no different. Even though she woke up early, she fell asleep on the couch and didn’t make it to the store in time.
The rest of the episode focused on her efforts to chase around all over town to get one, until her son came to the rescue by emailing his dad’s cyber-buddies, lying that the dad was sick, (or dying, I forget which!), and then successfully obtaining an extra iPad from one of the people who felt sorry for Phil’s supposed illness.
Needless to say, Phil was ecstatic (after stoically suffering all day). If you haven’t seen the episode, you should go to ABC.com to watch it.
Anyway – as enjoyable as the episode was, it got me thinking about the close synergy that’s developed between advertisers and programmers. I hope the writers came up with this idea on their own since the storyline fit the character well. But maybe Apple approached them, I don’t know. Apple was acknowledged in the show’s credits.
I’m not sure why the Apple reference bothered me. There’s nothing new here after all. Advertising in a television program (as opposed to commercial breaks) has been around since the beginning of TV in the 1950s. But with the advent of DVR’s and the Internet, advertisers have been working with the networks to get their products integrated in the show’s content.
In some shows, the advertising is just downright blatant – such as The Biggest Loser. I love watching that show – it’s very inspiring. But every time they start saying how great Ziploc or Xtra gum is, I just fast-forward past that segment. (I rarely watch TV live – everything gets DVR’d at my house.)
At least on Modern Family, Apple’s iPad was an integral part of the story, so upon reflection, I didn’t mind the message as much. After all, if more advertisers followed Apple’s lead, they could reach more people by integrating their products in a program’s storyline in a clever way – not as a blatant sales message. Then, it wouldn’t matter if people sped past the commercials – their message would get through anyway.