About fifteen minutes into the show, Brenda Lee, struck hard by an attack of the stake-out munchies, rummages in her purse … wrestles with a shiny silver wrapper … and starts choking down what looked for all the world like a turd dipped in flesh-colored paint.
I know Brenda Lee quite well — we’re on a first name basis, you see. I know her eating habits. When under pressure, she frequently locks herself in her office and woofs down an entire 12-pak of Zingers. This treat, though, looks so unfamiliar and inappropriate that I snatch the Tivo remote, backtrack, and replay the scene.
This time, through Brenda’s frantic fingers, I make out the product name: SOYJOY.
Clyde shakes his head. “She’s eating a SoyJoy bar?”
“What’s a SoyJoy bar?”
Neither of us know. And then — five minutes later — the network helps us out … by playing an ad for SoyJoy bars.
Coincidence? I think not.
On one level, the product placement works. Prior to seeing the product placement, SoyJoy bars weren’t on my radar at all; now they are. Prior to seeing the product placement, I had never visited the SoyJoy website; now I have. Prior to seeing the product placement, I didn’t know SoyJoy bars were “fortified with optimism.” Now I do.
But on another — and, I’d argue, more important — level, the product placement is a total failure. The sight of Brenda Lee wrapping her lips around a SoyJoy doesn’t make me want to buy one … it just makes me exclaim, “Hey, that’s not something Brenda Lee would eat!” (On the other hand, had she pulled out a box of Pop Tarts or a bag of Oreos, I wouldn’t have batted an eye.)
Worse, that first visual impression — that fleeting image of a pale, oblong, lump emerging from the shiny, space-age wrapper — had a visceral impact on me that no amount of perky website copy can counter.
Instead of being enticed, I’m repulsed. Instead of feeling intrigued … I feel slightly nauseous. No SoyJoy for me!