Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 178: MFCEO!


The cardinal rule of advertising is to make the public aware of and interested in purchasing your client's product. By and large that's by making their products appear essential to your well-being and future happiness.

We all want to deal with providers of goods and services who purport to respect us, deal in quality and take their business seriously.

Oh, sure, from time to time one ad or another will have a little fun at the client's expense, maybe even imply that nobody really buys that respect, quality, responsible malarky. But we all know they're really just kidding the way only truly respectful, responsible and quality people do.

And that's especially been true in the realm of Product Placement. Advertisers provide some product or service to a television series or film and in return the production works what's being sold into the storyline.

When that works well David Caruso is slipping on a pair of wire frame Maui Jim's. When it doesn't, Donald Trump's Apprentae are hawking Whoppers in Times Square.

Seamless is good. Implying a character the audience likes or wants to emulate uses a product they should purchase makes everybody involved happy.

Nobody wants a character shilling their product who's vulgar, morally reprehensible and utterly without redeeming characteristics.

At least that used to be the case…


Until a few days ago, K-Swiss, a leading manufacturer of athletic wear, was happy to sell its wares much like most of its competitors, with fast paced colorful ads filled with happy, smiling young adults playing sports and working out.

Sometimes their ads featured well-known pro-athletes and celebrities.

But this week they signed a spokesperson who is a well-known pro-athlete and celebrity only in his own mind, Kenny Powers of HBO's irreverent series "Eastbound and Down".


For those who haven't been paying attention, Kenny Powers is the warped demon spawn of screenwriters Ben Best, Jody Hill and Danny McBride. McBride also portrays him onscreen.

In the world of "Eastbound and Down", Powers is a failed Major League pitcher relegated to substitute teaching back in his home town. In Season Two, he attempted to restart his career in Mexico and will return in Season Three making a hard final charge for the fame and fortune he is certain he deserves, lack of definable athletic talent notwithstanding.

From a comedy point of view, Kenny is a brilliant creation; a racist, foul-mouthed, self-centred dickhead that even the most crooked used car dealership wouldn't let anywhere near their late night horror movie spots.

So, of course, K-Swiss has just made him their new brand spokesman.

According to the company's VP of Marketing, Chris Kyle, "Some people see us as that company that makes conservative, white tennis shoes and some of the kids today don't even know that much. Here's their wake-up call. This is who we are now.".

I'm not exactly sure what that means. But then I'm not fully conversant in marketing talk.

But I have had to integrate products into a dramatic storyline. Or, massage a moment to reduce the stress levels of an advertiser whose viewing of a rough cut made him break out in a cold sweat.

The K-Swiss/Kenny Powers marriage may mark the moment when the world of product placement and celebrity endorsement got a little less onerous for everybody involved.

Or, if it doesn't go well, it may signify a lot more writer room angst in the years to come.

However the scale tips, one thing is certain. Kenny Powers first outing for K-Swiss is jaw-droppingly hilarious.

Enjoy your Sunday.

1 comment:

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