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Donald Trump Sure Has (Meat)Balls

April 7th, 2005

Right now, I’m watching The Apprentice on NBC, and have just witnessed a jaw-dropping example of product placement.

If you’re not familiar with the show, many of the tasks that Donald Trump’s would-be apprentices face are designed to feature one of the series’ sponsors, and the product in question is typically introduced to the consuming public in a commercial airing within the episode. This week has to do with creating a “tech-friendly” clothing line for American Eagle, but I’m more interested in last week’s challenge: creating and marketing a meatball pizza for Domino’s.

A funny thing happened during last week’s broadcast. Halfway into the show, rival chain Papa John’s ran its own ad, featuring its own meatball pizza. (While not a national spot, it aired in 64 television markets.) There was no doubt that it was designed to blunt the Domino’s promotion, as it took place in a Trump-like boardroom and asked whether anyone wanted to eat a pizza designed by an apprentice.

An even funnier thing happened this week. Trump had called both teams into his presence to announce the American Eagle challenge, but just before they left, he said something odd, and I quote:

“And speaking of last week’s task, here’s something you didn’t know. Both teams invented meatball pizza, but if you’d done your market research like Domino’s did, you would have discovered that customers don’t want meatball pizza. What they want is cheeseburger pizza. The Lesson: Always pay attention to your customer.”

I thought it was odd that The Apprentice spent all last week showing Domino’s customers buying and enjoying meatball pizza, yet this week went well out of its way to declare that no one would want such a meal. Why would the Donald go off on such an irrelevant tangent? On a hunch, I ran to our TiVo-Like-Device (TM) and rewound the video.

Sure enough, during the entire anti-meatball, non-sequitur rant, Donald Trump was never pictured on-screen. Instead, we saw reaction shots of the teams, and an insert of Carolyn standing next to a gesticulating arm which we are to presume was Trump’s. The whole speech had been dubbed into the scene after the fact.

And, you guessed it, the first ad in the next commercial pod was for a Domino’s cheeseburger pizza.

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