Health to the company
I’m usually okay with product placement. When it’s done poorly, the sponsor company deservedly suffers. But when it’s done intelligently, it adds authenticity and even a kind of shorthand. Think about it: a thirsty character who chugs a Red Bull is a much different person than one who downs a V8 juice.
So I was interested to learn about the relationship between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom to further integrate the charitable organization’s philanthropic messages into the story lines of entertainment programming. It’s a variation on the same concept of ensuring authenticity, only this time in the public’s interest.
It’s not a new idea. The hugely popular BBC radio series The Archers began in 1950 as a way of using interesting stories to subtly educate farmers in a country still subject to WWII food rationing. The Kaiser Family Foundation has delivered information about public health issues via “America’s Next Top Model” and other programs’ story lines for many years. Some feel a little creepy about this, but I’m okay with it as long as it’s done with all-around integrity. Accuracy is important for authenticity, but it’s even more important to be accurate when the plot deals with health and medical issues. [Title lyric by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bill Gates photo from the Gates Foundation.]