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“That’s What Commercials Are For”

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MTV sees itself as far too hip, brimming with too much integrity to allow overt product placement in music videos:

    In her recent music video, rapper Ms. Jade is swerving on a dark city street to the beat of her song “Ching Ching.” She’s behind the wheel of a sparkling, tank-sized Hummer H2, as is a rival racing alongside.

    The Hummers seem to get as much screen time as Ms. Jade.

    That bit of product placement cost the Hummer’s manufacturer, General Motors Corp., some $300,000 — more than half the expense of the video produced by Interscope Records. It also represented another win for record labels in the catch-me-if-you-can game they’re playing with MTV, which has prohibited advertising in videos.

    Major record companies, strapped for cash amid flagging CD sales, have been defying MTV, teaming up with advertisers willing to help finance costly videos in exchange for product visibility.

    In the past, MTV screeners — worried that the cable channel’s savvy teen and young-adult audience would rebel against that kind of selling — have forced labels to blur images of products or logos that found their way into videos. But “Ching Ching” and other clips financed in part by corporate sponsors have sneaked in under the radar.

    ….The creation of a kind of promotional “gray market” has spawned its own product brokers: Band Ad Media and HP Media, a pair of Los Angeles firms that act as go-betweens for advertisers and entertainment companies, have been meeting lately with several labels to discuss matching artists with products.

    Some in the industry believe it’s just a matter of time before the music video turns into a powerful sales tool not only for musicians but for almost anything they might drive, play, wear, eat or blow up in a clip.

    “MTV’s going to have to rethink what videos are and what content is,” said Lance Jensen, creative director at Modernista, a Boston-based advertising agency that handles the Hummers.

    “A video is a commercial. Here’s Levi’s, here’s my Sprint phone and here’s my Adidas. So what? It’s going to happen.”

    That sort of “blatant commercialism,” MTV’s Calderone insists, isn’t appropriate for the Viacom Inc.-owned cable channel. “It’s a music video, not an advertising vehicle. That’s why there are commercials.” [LA Times]

I am doubled up with laughter right now. This is the most self-aggrandizing, dissembling, screaming pile of batshit I have heard in some time: MTV isn’t about “blatant commercialism.” Try an experiment, take away the “blatant commercialism” from MTV and what do you have left? Times up: the answer is dead air.

I’m guessing their concern is that when it becomes known that the videos are also paid product commercials, then their regular commercial time may be worth less, but it sure doesn’t have anything to do with “commericalism,” blatant or otherwise, because that’s what they are all about, baby.

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About Eric Olsen