Math-Men, Mad Men and Meth-Men

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This piece first appeared in Issue296 of the MARKETING Weekender

by Tony Savarimuthu – Brand-man, Ad Contrarian and Enemy of the Same

So some footballing ‘royalty’ have sounded out their preferences and life choices (or otherwise) at the Euro 2020/21 pressers. Of course they are compensated well for their skills which in turn earns them a fair amount in endorsements and sponsorships. I don’t want to get into that part of the discussion however as much has been said. 

What really makes great product placements?

Brand-owners use this in their marketing armoury because people are enthralled by great content the likes of Breaking Bad, Mad Men and GOT; Better Call Saul or The Crown. All multi-awarded at the Emmys and many other shows. Brilliantly written and scripted; with stellar performances and production.

Mad Men wasn’t just about ad-men, it had great moments in time set in history: gay, women’s and civil rights, racial discrimination, anti-semitism, Clay vs Liston, the Kennedy assassination, the Moon landing and the Vietnam war.

Similarly, The Crown while having granted itself some creative licence in the story-telling is set in history. The Queen has met 14 US Presidents and has reigned from Churchill to the current BoJo. Her observances as sovereign have chronicled a narrative of world history.

Marketers know well that people do not switch on their devices or turn on their screens to view ads.

If they make ads then many do their utmost to ensure that the ads are compelling enough for their audience. You can’t compete with the content so one tries to be part of it as product placement if the content is on OTT/streaming. Or in a choice spot within a break if the content is on satellite or broadcast.

Coming back to the Breaking Bad clip attached – in this example and many others where a brand is mentioned or showed in the series you can’t tell. You are not meant to tell. You can guess but it is not in the credits, and marketers and show-runners leave you none the wiser. But the impact hits you in the face like Muhammad Ali’s right cross. 

“Do you really want to live in a world without Coca-Cola?”

This particular episode of BrBa was written by Peter Gould, the show-runner (with Vince Gillian) of Better Call Saul. When the most admired writers place your brand into script-writing folklore, paid or otherwise, it is a hard act to follow. Brand story-tellers must find more exciting pathways in the age of content.   

When the Math-Men are done, the Mad Men need to write for the Meth-Men.

Walter White of BrBa featured in this clip is the bad-asses’ bad-ass, and mightily worse than Cersei or Prince Joffrey on GOT but the audiences had great empathy for the character played by actor Bryan Cranston.

There were no expansive sets or CGI. Just great actors and brilliant writers, storytelling and scripts.

Mexican drug cartels, meth warlords, psychopaths – few marketing angels will dare to tread there.

PS: I ask Siri instead for the time now as I don’t wear a watch. But have always liked the Casio calculator watch which Mr. White wore as a humble high-school chemistry teacher (until Jesse’s gifts him with the Tag Heuer Monaco). I think I will buy it for someone.. the Casio.

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