The 2 Best Ad Placements I’ve Ever Seen


For the past two weeks I’ve been at home with my brand new baby boy.

Because my primary concern has been sleeping and cuddling (and not keywords and rankings), I got to watch an unhealthy amount of primetime TV.

Now, I didn’t quite turn my brain off and veg out. I used my TV viewing time to observe how the big companies do advertising.

The stakes are high: 30-second spots in primetime run anywhere from $200,000 (The Simpsons) to $620,000 (American Idol on Wednesdays).

I would assume that advertisers squeeze every drop of effectiveness out of an investment that large.

The commercials themselves didn’t impress me too much, but the innovative ad placements within the programs themselves did.

And in my completely unscientific study, nobody got more innovative than McDonald’s and Ford.

McDonald’s and the NBA


McDonald’s caught my attention after an NBA game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls in Chicago. The Cavs are one of the best teams in the league while the Bulls are full of young talent but short on wins.

It was a very high-energy game and the Bulls squeaked out an overtime win at home against a better team.

As a TV reporter conducted a postgame interview with a smiling young Bull and the hometown crowd filed out happily, I looked at the flashing signs encircling the upper deck.
The phrase “BIG MAC SANDWICH” was plastered in big bold letters on every sign throughout the stadium.

McDonald’s made sure that when everyone in the stadium (and many people watching at home) felt an emotional high after a win by the underdogs, they thought about a Big Mac.

Ford and American Idol


American Idol profiles some of the contestants that “make it to Hollywood” in human interest stories. The winners who aren’t profiled are revealed in a montage that shows them rejoicing and and crying for joy with their families.

During one of these montages on Tuesday’s show, right as a winner told the good news to her family, an ad for the new FORD FLEX splashed across the bottom of the screen.

Needless to say the montage was a very happy and emotional scene, one that Ford wants you to connect with their newest car. I almost didn’t notice the ad because I was so wrapped up in what was happening on the show.

So next time you’re casually watching a primetime show and see a well-known brand, remember that a Fortune 500 company paid a LOT of money to be seen by you. And it’s pretty fun to try and guess what they’re trying to accomplish.

Have you noticed any other smart product placements?

  • Karie

    Great post! I feel so smart when I recognize a product placement. I thought the Audi’s in Iron Man were a really great idea (for Audi), but there was one 30 second scene where they showed the logo on the car three times. It became a little too obvious! I like how with the right timing (as you mentioned), and just the right amount of “in-your-face”, it can advertise without interrupting the entertainment. I was reading an article once about businesses that Angel Investors want to invest in, but no one has started. A billionaire said he would invest in a Web site built to match advertisers with product placement opportunities in TV, movies, and online video, all from the comfort of their chairs. I’d love to build this site, but you’d have to have huge connections in the entertainment industry. Thanks for the post. Very entertaining!

  • Dad

    Good article. I’m glad you finally got a by-line.

  • Lucas

    No product placement sticks in my head quite like the New Chevy Camaro in Transformers. I’m almost certain that Chevy footed the bill for the entire movie. Maybe the Washington bailout will pay for Transformers 2?