I’m watching the season finale of Scrubs right now and there was just a scene which was essentially a commercial for Travelocity. It’s an example of integrated advertising, the new buzzword for what used to be called product placement. It’s a hardly a new concept, but one that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, because the creative types are getting up in arms over it.
The reason why it failed so miserably here is that it stuck out like a sore thumb because of the way Zach Braff played the scene; he sort of veered off character and acted like a crap actor in a crap commercial. I know this sort of goofy, dorky schtick is a part of his character and the show, but in this instance it didn’t feel like J.D. being a dork; it felt like Zach Braff was pissed off about having to be a Travelocity spokesman, so he gave the worse possible performance, Harrison Ford/Blade Runner Voice-Over Style. As such, not only was it unfunny, it totally pulled me out of the. . . reality of the show, if you will.
Product placement can work really well if done right. To this day I want to buy a Ford F-150 because of an episode of Alias when all hell is breaking loose and Jennifer Garner yells, “To the F-150!!” as naturally as one would yell, “To the WhoMobile!!” or “To the Halls of Justice!!” Once she’s behind the wheel, she plows through a row of parked cars without sustaining any damage “To the F-150!!” as she chases the hell out of that fake Spike dude and the hot blond double agent who was also Jennifer Garner’s guy’s wife on the show. I realize that sentence doesn’t make much sense, that’s because Alias doesn’t. It doesn’t have to; the point is, if I ever get my shit together and become able to afford it — they sold me a fucking truck and entertained me, which was their whole objective.
I’m going to write a longer piece on the subject (integrated advertising, not the complexities of Alias), but right now I’m going to watch the rest of Scrubs.