ANGELES ó Car commercials are the kind of thing that
Mindy Lahiri, the titular character on "The Mindy
Project," might impatiently fast-forward through or
ignore while watching a bad reality-TV show. The Hulu
comedy offered an alternative earlier this month for
viewers of the latter mindset.
brand-obsessed OB/GYN, played by Mindy Kaling, finds
herself embarking on a trip to her alma mater to discuss
egg freezing. And a new Lexus RX serves as the chariot
for Mindy and her posse.
integration, in which products are blended into scenes,
is hardly a new phenomenon. But the practice is becoming
more prevalent in an era of commercial-free streaming
and ad-skipping DVRs ó nearly half of all commercials
on prime-time shows wonít actually be seen this year,
according to the research firm Samba TV.
networks increasingly are experimenting with reducing ad
loads on some popular shows. NBCís "Saturday
Night Live," for example, recently announced plans
to reduce its ad load 30 percent next season while
increasing the number of so-called branded sketches.
Hulu, the trend represents a quandary: how to keep its
relationship with advertisers who help finance much of
its programming, without alienating viewers fed up with
Los Angeles-area company, which is a joint venture of
major TV network owners 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney
Co. and Comcastís NBCUniversal, has long stood as the
outlier among the prominent subscription-based streaming
services that have accelerated the trend toward
commercial-free TV. Hulu, unlike its main rivals Netflix
and Amazon, is ad-supported ó a big appeal to
commercial brands that are worried about losing their
access to large TV audiences that are increasingly
tuning them out.
address the changing viewing habits, Hulu recently
launched its own ad-free service and is finding creative
ways to weave products into shows.
represents an opportunity for Hulu to make money, and
for the show to make money, and for brands to reach
their target audiences in ways above and beyond a
15-second or 30-second spot," said Peter Naylor,
head of advertising sales at Hulu.
would not disclose how much money Hulu receives from
money producers can receive from brands for
incorporating a product into a TV series varies widely
based on factors such as the popularity of the program
and whether the series is on a broadcast network, cable
or streaming service, among other factors. Advertisers
pay from $50,000 to $1 million to place a product into
itís not a new phenomenon, product placement is
growing across television. Revenue from paid television
placement is expected to reach nearly $5 billion in the
U.S. in 2015, up 14 percent from 2014, according to
research from data provider PQ Media.
the economic realities of the fact that commercials are
a dying business, brand integration is definitely going
to be increasing in frequency," said Ashwin Navin,
chief executive of the analytics firm Samba TV.
"Would you rather sit through eight minutes of ads
for 22 minutes of content? Or would you rather have
product placement within the shows that didnít
completely derail the plot line?"
is working with two brands for two of its comedies.
Mindy Project" featured the Lexus RX, a mid-sized
SUV, in the episode that aired earlier this month. The
comedy "Casual" incorporates Goose Island Beer
Co. into episodes.
Bolain, general manager of Lexus product and consumer
marketing, said the company has been more aggressive in
seeking out opportunities for brand integration in the
last couple of years as viewer habits have shifted.
are very smart about advertising," he said. "I
think itís nice to see products being used in
situation settings that feel a little more real than
what you see in a stylized commercial. And they actually
a tricky balancing act, however, for the show writers.
The key is finding the right fit between show and
product. The TV streets, after all, are littered with
egregious and clunky product placement moments.
chided Foxís "New Girl" for a two-minute
sequence in 2013 that involved main character Jess (Zooey
Deschanel) stumbling about as she modeled a Ford Fusion
at a car show. "Modern Family" on ABC even
devoted an entire episode last year to family members
communicating entirely through Apple devices.
Warburton, showrunner of "The Mindy Project,"
said product integration almost comes naturally on the
show. In one scene Mindy touts the voice-activated radio
of her Lexus.
Mindy character loves brands and shopping and consumer
culture so much that itís always the easiest thing in
the world for us to find ways to feature a brand in a
subtle way that doesnít jump out to the audience and
feels consistent with the storytelling we do," he
such moves shouldnít overtake the storytelling, said
"Casual" creator Zander Lehmann. The showís
main character, played by Tommy Dewey, has a preference
for Goose Island Beer, which is featured in several
episodes this season.
weíre doing is clearly a mix between art and
commerce," Lehmann said. "But I think you have
to be aware and careful of how itís used and how itís
done or else you end up being a 30-minute advertisement
for people who pay your budgets. Ö I havenít had
that experience yet. But itís something Iím mindful
in trying to avoid."