7 Fixes When Products Become The Bad Guy On TV


Table Of Contents


Crock-Pot's Mess With This Is Us

Your brand is in the scene!  Wowzer and good gosh it's celebration time!  Or is it?  One of the reasons brands work with product placement agencies is to keep a pulse on the content - which includes both good, and bad, potential exposure.  Because not every time a brand appears on screen will it result in accolades and good times for the brand.

Scripts are written based off of real life.  But they also add in a lot of extras to keep people glued to their screen - drama is needed.  And when a brand gets in the cross hairs of a writer, bad things can happen.  Like in the case of Crock-Pot and their big reveal as the cause of a massive house fire on This Is Us in the show's second season. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares 7 next step moves for what brands can do as part of crisis management when their product becomes the bad guy on TV, using Crock-Pot and This Is Us as an example.

Crock Pot This Is Us

A Product Placement Safety Net

I referenced this already - but there really are some great reasons why brands hire product placement agencies for their brand.  It's to keep the pulse of the brand on what is going on in the entertainment industry.  Our team, and other agencies like us, work with prop masters, set decorators, stylists, and transportation coordinators on a day in, day out basis. 24/7 and often for decades.  Which means we build up some pretty fantastic relationships.  And when a script gets written by a writer, and approved by a director, that has a pretty gnarly brand scene? 

Well usually we get told about it.  First we are asked for clearance and possibly product.  Or we might just be given a red flag warning that something is around the corner that they know we are not going to love.  And if we flag the scene as a problem, we start to work with the production to try to ease their focus onto another brand versus ours.

A product placement agency is truly a brand's safety net. 

That doesn't mean we are always successful.  Stuff happens that is out of anyone's control.  I remember back 18 or 19 years ago, when I was working with Montblanc when not once, but twice in one single night - the only two times of working with the brand for years!!! - a MontBlanc perfectly branded Meisterstuck pen with the snow white pen end, horribly ended up projected out of a jugular of an individual on a TV show.  One was Chicago Hope - where the pen was used to save the life of a man.  The other?  A murder mystery TV series where a bad guy used the pen to kill a priest. In either case - the client, and our team, were not so thrilled.

Who KNEW that could happen?  Well - it never did again with their pens I can tell you while on that brand's watch.  The agreements we wrote with productions ensured that. Ryan the prop master apologized profusely after the Chicago Hope mishap - great guy, and he more than made sure our client was happy in the following episodes and seasons.

But in both of those cases, no uproar occurred - besides internally at the brand.  People didn't revolt, throwing their pens out, in fear of having them end up in their throats.

But with the NBC TV hit series This Is Us?  Not so true for poor Crock-Pot.  In fact, according to the reaction on social media, a lot of Crock-Pots hit the kitchen trash by the next morning after the show aired.  Why?  Because on the show the Crock-Pot was set up as the bad guy.  The reason why Jack, the beloved father for the trio of main characters, died.

It simply caught fire, and burnt the house down.

WHAT!!!!! That's not good.

New Call-to-action

The Crock-Pot Mess

In the episode, there is a flashback to a scene where the Jack and Rebecca's neighbor George gifts the family with his old Crock-Pot.  Hey, it has a switch that you have to fiddle with, but no worries as it still works.  Then we see Jack cleaning up the kitchen post Super Bowl party, where the Crock-Pot was put to full use.  And after Jack left, somehow managed to turn itself back on, send out a spark, and light up the dish towel he had tossed by the unit on the counter.  And with no batteries in the smoke detector... tragedy occurred and Jack ultimately, died.

The problem is that loyal fans everywhere turned on the Crock-Pot for having caused one of their favorite characters to die.  Yes, everyone knew he was going to die.  But no one knew how.  And death by Crock-Pot?  A villain - the 'bad guy Crock-Pot' was born.

And fans started posting on social media that they were scared of their own Crock-Pot and going to toss it out. In case I didn't say it loudly enough before... poor Crock-Pot!

New Call-to-action

What People Said

The Twittersphere lit up after the show aired, with dozens and dozens of posts about tossing out Crock-pots to avoid a similar calamity of fire being shared.  Poor Crock-Pot.

See more of the posts here.

 Jan 23

This is Us Crock Pot Tweet 1

With only a few voices of support in the crowd:

What The Show Said

The show's response?  Summed up in a tweet by the show series creator, Dan Fogelman who said "Taking a moment to remind everyone that it was a 20 year old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch," Fogelman tweeted. "Let's not just lump all those lovely hardworking crockpots together."

Ummm... how about "I'm so sorry Crock-Pot! We are going to write you into another episode that is super positive and make you a star." Or give you free ad airtime on our network.  Or have our cast members all do a cooking lesson using Crock-Pots on set, with a press release and photo shoot to accompany.

I'm sure that regardless of the fact that the show did not mean to have hundreds to thousands of people throwing out their Crock-Pots, a lot of NBC lawyers were looking into potential safety nets and clarifying allowable usage as they waited for Crock-Pot's legal team to address them.

Fogelman This Is Us Crock Pot

What Crock-Pot Needs To Do Now

The brand is now in full crisis mode fix. And it is fixable - besides just waiting for time to go by and the show to become forgotten (which might take many many years as it is that popular).  

Here are seven things Crock-Pot can do in the next six months that will help rebuild their brand perception and erase the horrors of This Is Us:

  1. Influencer Program - Partnering with a variety of macro and micro influencers to fill the social media universe with pictures, videos and statements of how much people love their Crock-Pots and their favorite recipes.  Crock-Pot needs to unload a lot of free  units (and some cash as well) to get influencers on Team Crock-Pot spreading the word about it's safety record, how great it works, and why they love it.
  2. Celeb Gifting Lounges - Crock-Pot has the power of Award Season at it's feet right now - to work with a variety of celebrity gifting lounges around upcoming events, having Crock-Pots serving food on site that celebrities can eat and have their photos taken with their own Crock-Pot gifts.  These images are then shared socially and through various media outlets, and on Crock-pots own digital platforms and website.  The power of celebrity works.  Bring in a charity layover to this campaign and make it truly newsworthy... and press friendly.
  3. Product Placement For TV And Film - Yes, "This Is Us" damaged the brand.  But having Crock-Pot start making appearances in as many TV shows (and films although that is more like a 12 to 18 month plan) is a way to keep the brand in the Hollywood spotlight on screen and show that 'hey, Hollywood still loves Crock-Pot."  Reality shows and food driven storylines should also be of focus.
  4. Behind The Scenes - On set activations behind the scenes where Crock-Pot starts having a place on every Craft Service table, with a story of how the brand has taken over Hollywood - plus photos and videos.
  5. Talk Show Segments - With implied celebrity endorsements by hosts, Crock-Pot can start managing their messaging and remind everyone of the vast history of safety that the brand has experienced.  And create some memorable moments on screen.
  6. Branded Content - Customized branded content that can be created telling the Crock-Pot story, and shared and boosted digitally will further help drive home the messaging that Crock-Pot is here to stay and is safe.
  7. Public Relations - And of course, advetorials and editorials talking about the happy days of using Crock-Pot in youth to the delicious and healthy foods you can make now.

how your product placement program works

The Product Placement Plan

Check out some of our other agency blogs that talk about best marketing practices for product placement and brand integration partnerships:

If your brand is interested in product placement and getting its foot in the door to Hollywood, make sure you check out our Product Placement and Promotions 101 e-book that gives you full insight to the steps you will need to take to make the magic happen.

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide