House of Cards and effective product placement

House of Cards has a tonne of product placement. Is this for the better, or for the worse?

House of iCards...
On 10 February 2013 18:41

Instead of reviewing the new US political drama 'House of Cards', I thought instead I'd discuss why you've heard what you've heard about it so often - that it's 'making television history'.

Not only is this ultra-glossy American take on the British mini-series filmed in Super-HD, but the fact that it was created by, and uploaded to Netflix as a season in its entirety has caused TV executives to scratch their heads. The days of scheduled programming are drawing to a close - now what?

I think that from time to time, an advertising break in the middle of programming is required. Whether you need to pop to the loo, make a cup of tea, take a phone call or simply take a break from the twists and turns of TV drama, I have often lamented the fact that BBC programming doesn't allow for any of this - and apparently it's a pleasure which I'm supposed to be happy about paying for.

Well those days are over. Now, I can simply hit 'pause' on my Apple TV, when I fancy some apple pie in the middle of my evening. And how exactly has that come about in House of Cards? Why, through Apple of course.

Many tech and media sites have been quick to point out some 'over the top' moments of product placement during House of Cards, with at one point, nine apparent Apple devices sitting between two people on a table.

A bit much, I suppose, but the beauty of Apple's sponsorship of the show in this way is that at most points you can't really tell what's going on - and in most instances it actually lends more to the credibility of the show.

If you're as pedantic as I am, which I'm sure you're not, you'll easily be distracted and irked by the fact that during many television programmes, logos on products, laptops especially, are covered up with a sticker or a felt-marker. To the viewer, conscious or not, this detracts from the realism of what's taking place in front of you.

Of course, since absolutely everyone in House of Cards seems to have an iPad and use an iPhone, there is the possibility that for non-Apple nerds, this could get a little strange. For me, it felt like being at home. 

But while Francis Underwood is scheming in the back of his car, using his MacBook Pro to peruse databases of information, the takeaway is a new level of realism reflective of mainstream movies which have often had plenty of product placement over the past few years.

Whether Apple is paying through its nose for this privilege is not clear. What is, however, is that the way House of Cards is being produced, released and created is indeed changing television history. For me, product placement is a massive part of that.

NB: This article was not sponsored by Apple. Though it was written on a MacBook Air, edited on an iPad Mini and uploaded on an iMac. Would someone from Apple please get in touch already? Heh… 

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator. Follow him at @RaheemJKassam

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