web analytics
Home > TV > This Post Brought To You By Mennen Speed Stick

This Post Brought To You By Mennen Speed Stick

November 4th, 2004

Last night, I was watching Smallville, a WB TV show about the adventures of Superman when he was a whiner. Among the commercials was one for a new Old Spice deodorant named “Red Zone.” I presume that it’s intended to be extreme deodorant, perhaps one to be used when the terrorist threat level is raised to “puree.”

I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it, if it wasn’t for a scene in which young Clark Kent goes to his high school’s locker room. See, in the current season of Smallville, Clark is the star quarterback on the football team. This is despite protests by Pa Kent, who felt that Clark would use his superpowers to unfair advantage. However, Clark convinced him (whined enough) and now Pa cheers from the sidelines, even though it’s absolutely clear that his boy is using his superpowers to unfair advantage.

Anyhow, back to the locker room. Clark retrieves his clothes, but what’s that in Superboy’s locker? Why, it’s Old Spice Red Zone! Right there in front of the camera! The Teen of Steel uses Old Spice! Wow!

It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when product logos weren’t plastered all over TV shows and movies. And honestly, it used to bug me when characters would drink a generic “Beer” or wash with “Soap.” It took me out of the drama for a moment, because we all know that real life comes with a thick overlay of corporate identification. People drink Coca-Cola, not “Soda Pop.”

That changed as “product placement” was discovered by movie studios and TV producers who realized that companies would pay big money to have Billy Crystal wipe his ass with Charmin on screen. And again, a limited amount of this didn’t bother me, because it added to the realism of the setting. Of course James Bond would drive a BMW!

But there have been outrageously obvious examples that I’ve found even more distracting than old-fashioned “Beer.” For me, the poster child of inappropriate product placement was in Superman III (hmmm, Superman again?), a 1983 movie in which the Man of Tomorrow battled Richard Pryor.

Midway through the film, computer genius Pryor was pretending to be a janitor for reasons which currently escape me. The janitor’s closet door swung wide open, and…a large Kentucky Fried Chicken* bag came into view. Hanging on the back of the door. Right in the dead center of the screen. At that moment, I could no longer care about Richard Pryor’s hijinks or whether Superman could possibly defeat such a fiendishly clever hacker. All I could think was, “What the hell is that bag doing there?”

This sort of thing has become more prevalent on television in recent years as station breaks become ever more cluttered, and viewers use a wide array of devices to avoid watching the commercials which are the primary reason for the existence of their favorite shows. Advertising agencies want their messages to be unavoidable, and even better, associated with characters that people love. A 30 second spot about a douche is one thing, but if that selfsame douche appears in Lorelai Gilmore’s medicine cabinet…

So, we return to Smallville, and an exceedingly lame episode in which the Kryptonian Kid is pitted against a villain named for one of the comic book Superman’s arch-nemeses, the all-powerful, 5th-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk. Except that here, “Mikhail” Mxyzptlk is a quasi-European with a bad accent who uses his limited mind-control abilities to bet on high school football games. Wha?

As Clark heads off to play the big game, we can hear the field announcer over the loudspeakers: “Today’s game is brought to you by Luthorcorp, S.T.A.R. Labs, Boy Scout Troop 762, and…”

“Don’t say it,” I thought. “Please don’t say it.”

“…Old Spice Red Zone!

Aaaagh. Okay, we fucking get it. The citizens of Smallville use Red Zone to ward off the body odors caused by extensive exposure to Kryptonite. For the love of all that’s holy, why not just name the show The Old Spice Adventures of Superboy and be done with it?!?

Next week on Smallville, Lois Lane returns…with a mysterious candy bar! Wednesday at 8:00 pm on the WB!

*There was a time when KFC advertised that it fried its food.

Comments are closed.