One of my main leisure activities over the past few years has become keeping up with my favorite cooking programs that are broadcast across the cable TV airwaves as well as video sharing websites such as YouTube. The Reality TV business has taken so many twists and turns since becoming popular in the early 1990s that it’s sometimes difficult to tell where the drama ends and the real instruction begins; yet there are plenty of shows out there with their individual take on what is needed in order to become the next recording artist, athlete, or even professional cook. Admittedly, my favorite programs revolve around food, with a personal soft spot for the global MasterChef phenomenon which pits a handful of home cooks against each other in a series of difficult culinary predicaments to see which one comes out on top. After more than a dozen weekly episodes that feature eliminations, the winner generally takes home a substantial cash prize along with a cookbook deal and other benefits.
MasterChef And Product Placement
If you’re an observant viewer or someone who’s spent time in the advertising industry, chances are you’ve noticed quite a bit of strategic product placement within the MasterChef kitchen. Not only that, the attempt to collectivize opinions and drive new business toward certain chefs, restaurants, equipment manufacturers and even food critics is often so obvious that it’s easy to question how genuine some of the “real-time” reactions actually are. A prime example of this is the promotion of Walmart steaks as well as the fact that the supermarket behemoth is recognized as the “Official Grocer” of the competition in the United States.
It’s interesting to witness how the product placement variables are flirted with and to see just how a company’s reputation is managed within a specialty environment such as cooking. In many cases, the home cooks are given ingredients to work with as they construct their dream meal while abiding by a specific time limit. When there’s any sort of filet mignon used, a quick in-program advertisement is launched by one of the judges repeating a sentence or two about Walmart and reminding all the contestants (and of course, viewers) that “only one in five steaks are good enough to be called Walmart steaks.” Another way that the judges promote the supermarket in real time is by displaying a basket-full of ingredients and then informing everyone that they were purchased from Walmart as they go over how delicious some of the chocolate is or how ripe the strawberries are, etc.
Does Product Placement Work?
As is the answer to just about every question… it depends. In order for product placement to be successful, it needs to alter a general perception, create a need, or serve some other advertising/marketing purpose that ultimately leads to greater consumption combined with a more positive general outlook on how the merchandise fits into a person’s daily routine. All the obvious shenanigans aside, it’s hard to criticize the effectiveness of how the brand is inserted in key situations within the MasterChef competition.
For example, it’s easy to see how viewers might decide to make their own grilled steak at home and actually replicate the scenario that the competitors had to go through by purchasing $15 worth of ingredients at Walmart to cook a meal for four. Unlike other competitive cooking programs such as Iron Chef, MasterChef makes a point of featuring amateur cooks who may have skills more in line with those of us watching at home. They are people who the average viewer can more easily relate to, root for, and even imitate.
Although this particular head of household may not be rushing out to grab a fistful of Walmart steaks the next time I want a nice marbled rib-eye to put on the grill, it is indeed interesting and educations to see how advertisers are constantly updating their techniques in an effort to maximize a brand or product’s potential.
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