FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
Enough with the blatant sucking up... let's get to the blatant shilling!
—Triple H, WWE Friday Night Smackdown!

A plug is a mention thrown in by a show or an individual to promote said show or another product. An Enforced Plug is a mention that is presented so blatantly, it's obvious that they're contractually obligated to add it in. This is a particularly annoying form of Viral Marketing, as the stagy way the plug is presented usually severely kills the mood for the viewer and the momentum of the show, losing viewer interest in both the show and the product instead of heightening it.

You can usually tell when these are coming; they appear at the end of the show, after the credits or any time in-show after a very obvious segue. The actors also try their best to make it sound exciting, but it's fairly easy to tell they're just going through the motions of Product Placement, the plug sounding wooden and forced.

This was a ubiquitous practice in the Golden Age of Radio Drama. It was also common in the earliest generation of TV shows (many of which had started on radio).

Compare The Shill, See Also Now Buy the Merchandise.

Examples:


Comic Books

  • Universal's Islands of Adventure is mentioned from time to time in the Marvel Comics 2 line of Marvel Comics.

Film

  • Because the network in The Truman Show was devoted to showing Truman's entire waking life, Product Placement was done by his family and friends (i.e. the supporting cast) delivering Enforced Plugs in his presence. An inappropriate and out of place plug was eventually one of the things that clued him in to the fakeness of his situation.
  • Parodied in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, where the station covering a NASCAR race cuts to commercial in the middle of a dramatic crash, followed by an actual Applebee's commercial appearing in the middle of the movie--but that's not even the punchline. The punchline is that when the race coverage returns after the commercial, the crash is still happening.
  • The 1988 E.T. knockoff Mac and Me was a virtual two-hour advertisement for McDonald's and Coca-Cola.
    • Incidentally, E.T. itself averts the trope by prominently featuring Reeses' Pieces, but never actually naming the product.
  • "Oh Taco Bell, Taco Bell, product placement with Taco Bell. El Chorito, Macho Burrito!"
    • Demolition Man: 15 years from now, Taco Bell is the only restaurant on Earth (or at least, in America). Dear Gods.
      • Due to a clever re-shoot, if you watched this movie outside the U.S., the only restaurant on Earth (or at least, in America) is Pizza Hut.
  • The first Wayne's World movie parodied Product Placement by showing an entire scene jam-packed with products. The second film however directly parodied Enforced Plug with a short and completely out-of-place exchange about the virtues of a laundry detergent.

 Wayne: Yeah, thanks for doing my laundry. How do you get my clothes so white and fresh-smelling?

Cassandra: It's an old Cantonese method few people know about.

Wayne: Wait a minute.

[pulls out a box of detergent from the laundry basket]

Wayne: Calgon? Ancient Chinese secret, eh?

[Big photo-op smile with the box]

  • Parodied in the second Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie. Halfway through, the director announces that they don't have enough money to finish the movie, so the actors suggest that they start doing product placement to get more money. From that point until the moment the protagonist yells out "Do we have enough money to finish this turkey yet?" the movie is strewn with blatantly obvious advertisements.

Literature

  • Parodied in this short story, by means of a simple request horribly misunderstood.
  • The Thursday Next series has a lot of seemingly out-of-nowhere references to something called the Toast Marketing Board. One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing reveals that this is because when the written Thursday, who "plays" the first-person narrator of the Thursday Next books, briefly visited the real world, she took a big check from the Toast Marketing Board in exchange for inserting references to it into the series.

Live Action TV

  • Myth Busters has started doing this in recent shows, including short segments where they bust myths like "The new Jetta Foobar Turbo is smelly and noisy, because it is a diesel."
  • X-Play likewise tends to plug an online game rental store numerous times during each show. They try to mix it up to keep it interesting, but after the first hundred times, it's grown very thin.
  • Call-in voting for talent shows always mentions what telephone company is sponsoring the phone lines.
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sometimes degenerates to this, when they can't find a less obvious way to reveal that they're completely stocking the house with products from Sears and its subsidiaries.
  • Parodied in Extras, where Coldplay star Chris Martin makes an appearance on Andy Millman's sitcom after expressing "interest" to him and his producer. The producer ignores Andy's reasoning that having a celebrity randomly crop up in the show would not make much sense and even moves the filming day just to accommodate Martin's own schedule. His sudden appearance on the show is ham-handedly dealt with and is simply used as a vehicle to advertise Coldplay's "greatest hits" album, Chris Martin wearing a t-shirt with the album cover on it and Andy being forced to blatantly ask when it was being released. The critics jump on the event and blame Andy for it, claiming he was using it simply to "prop up his lame duck of a sitcom".
  • It's gotten bad in Burn Notice so far as cars are concerned. Lately, it's been amped-up Hyundais. It's gotten so bad that at one point, having used their super-Hyundai to bust into something, Sam and Fi stood around for a moment talking about what a great car it was before running off to continue the episode. (This could easily have been Lampshading by the writers, though.)
  • An episode of the Canadian reality series Kenny Vs. Spenny had the two lead characters facing off in a contest to see who could win the most money. Magnificent Bastard Kenny thought up the idea for selling airtime on the show, and earned over $5000 dollars getting two business owners and a rock band to pay for airtime promoting themselves. Unfortunately, the contract stipulated by the production company who created the show forced Kenny to give half the funds to his friend, as any ad revenue had to be shared equally between the pair, and caused him to lose the competition.
  • More than one episode of I Love Lucy had the plot hijacked for several minutes for an Infomercial on the sponsor's product.
    • I Love Lucy was actually very subtle for its time. Check out this episode of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Every single episode was like that.
  • This is the whole reason Soap Operas got the name Soap Opera.
  • Eureka sadly seems to be headed in this direction. BUY DEGREE DEODORANT NOW! It's being done in such an obvious, unsubtle way, though (it's even Lampshaded in the 'things are going to be different' speech given by the tyrant taking over Global Dynamics), that this Troper wonders if it this was a deliberate joke by the producers that's gotten a bit out of hand. (No other Sci Fi series does anything like this, much less this obviously bad)
    • Can't be any doubt. One recent episode had character Zane develop a substance that will protect a person from the heat, even from flamethrowers and runaway dwarf stars. Right there on Zane's desk is a Degree Deodorant roll-on. Apparently, in the Eureka universe, this product is also real and can do all the fantastic things we see in the degree commercials.
  • Psych has had a few jarring Product Placements. This one's gotten the impression that Shawn Spencer's writer didn't particularly like advertising Dunkin' Donuts, and did his best to make sure it was jarring, random, and blown off by other characters.
  • Parodied in one episode of Arrested Development where the characters start blurting out Burger King mid-speech or the camera keeps jump cutting to a Burger King restaurant. Even the narrator thinks Burger King is awesome.
    • The method of the parody was excellent, it involved a scene set in Burger King between two characters as one of them was trying to persuade the chain to purchase an enforced plug of an episode he was directing for the show within the show.
    • Somewhat played straight in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with Subway.
  • There was a really painful example of this in a recent episode of Bones, in which the characters apparently decided that the best way to solve their current case was to consult Cesar Milan, TV's "Dog Whisperer." This plug was particularly Egregious because it took up about half of the actual episode. A good Drinking Game might be to watch this episode, and take a shot every time someone stares at Cesar in contractually obligatory awe.
    • Is that who he was? This sort of thing really confuses tropers who live outside the original catchment area of the show...
    • Don't forget the episode-long Avatar plug. Obvious, much?
    • More than one episode has dropped everything so one character can tell another about a neat feature of whatever land whale they're driving.
  • Stephen Colbert parodies this often with Doritos, once even spending an entire week on location in "Chili-delphia, the city of brotherly crunch." In a weird sort of reverse Product Placement, Doritos hadn't actually paid him when he started the gag, but apparently a deal has been reached involving the large exchange of Nacho Cheese Doritos.
  • In Smallville, the entire episode "Hero" is a gruesomely blatant commercial for Stride chewing gum.
    • One has to wonder if the writers raged against the shilling, or if they were just bad at it. The episode revolved involved a shut down Stride production plant (and Cloe mocking their slogan) and returning character Pete going Ax Crazy from eating tainted gum. Neither one really sells you on Stride.
  • ABC forced the producers of Roseanne to do an episode Infomercial about Disneyland. The producers retaliated by doing an episode about one of the characters being brainwashed while working at (almost literally) a Nazi theme park.
    • Step by Step and Full House did similar shows played almost disturbingly straight.
      • And Family Matters... hell, pretty much every ABC sitcom in the '90s was forced to take a trip to Disneyland at some point, where wonder and romance invariably bloomed. Paris episodes were mandatory too for some reason.
      • Boy Meets World's Disneyland episode even had a brief Crossover when Corey ran into Dana from Step by Step (which was also filming there that week).
      • Even the Muppets went to Walt Disney World. Statler and Waldorf, true to form, still complained... about the place having nothing to complain about.
      • Sabrina did a Disney World episode specifically to promote the opening of Animal Kingdom (as well as the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort which didn't actually open for another 3 years).
    • Add Modern Family to the list, as they just did a Disneyland episode.
  • The TV series Chuck has product-placed Subway's $5 Footlong sandwiches.
    • It's almost Lampshaded in "Chuck vs. The First Kill" where Morgan is asked to bribe his boss with his "favorite thing." The favorite thing is of course donuts, but a chicken teriyaki foot-long is just as good.
    • Later seasons have this plug almost Once an Episode, likely because Subway was instrumental in promoting the show and keeping it on the air.
  • The Nissan Versa in Heroes started out as creative and original product placement, but later cars degenerated into this trope.
  • Monk can be really ridiculous when it comes to this trope. Two words: Buick Lucerne.
  • Parodied in 30 Rock, when the writers for the Show Within a Show are asked to plug a General Electric product, they suddenly start talking about how great Diet Snapple is.

  Liz Lemon: That Verizon Wireless service is just unbeatable! I mean, if I saw one of those phones on TV, I'd be like 'Where is my nearest retailer, so I can... get one?' ...[strained grin at camera] Can we have our money now?

  • Done in one episode of The West Wing (a Thanksgiving episode), in which the President calls up Butterball's advice line, pretending to be an ordinary citizen.
  • In Seinfeld, Jerry would often randomly and blatantly offer other characters a Snapple, who would always decline.
    • There was a decent amount of product placement in that show in general.
  • Not even newscasts are immune. The morning newscasts on Denver's CW affiliate KWGN have "Chick-Fil-A Weather and Traffic On The 2s" (before that it was McDonald's), the Sunday night sports show on Fox station KDVR once prominently displayed the Chevrolet logo on the bottom of the screen, and that's just the start.
  • On The Office manager Michael Scott often mentions various generic products that he thinks are the best thing ever. However, Michael Scott is the show's resident idiot and the show is presented as a Mockumentary, so it is quite likely Michael is being paid to do this, and not the writers.
    • A common form is for him to mention a product (like an in-flight magazine subscription) in dialog with a coworker, and then expand on the greatness of the product in a talking head. Other times though, like with his Cracked (before it was a website) Magazine subscription, he tried to distance himself from the product.
  • Since the guest's purpose on The Daily Show, like any other talk show, is to promote their latest publication/production/project, Jon naturally wraps each interview with a reference to it. Sometimes the guests will invoke the trope themselves; the more satirical Lampshading fanfare they do it with, the more likely they're about to go Off the Rails.
  • In one very memorable episode of I've Got a Secret, Harpo Marx was the guest star, his secret being to pantomine various common phrases (For example: He puts jam on a light bulb and pretends to eat it..having a 'Light Lunch'). For the last phrase he took out a copy of his just published book "Harpo Speaks" with a large hole drilled though it. He then took the missing piece and put it in the hole...literally 'Plugging His Book'.
  • One episode of Gilmore Girls was devoted to shilling the Sidekick (Seriously, the episode was even called 'I Get a Sidekick Out of You'.) It's pretty obvious-- Rory's father buys her a Sidekick and spends half the episode going on and on about how amazing it is, all while texting her constantly.
    • However, it likely backfired on the Sidekick hard, as Christopher is well known to most of the fandom as The Adult Scrappy that nobody cares about, like the Sidekick by the time that episode aired.
  • Parodied on Top Gear when Jeremy Clarkson needed to drive a car owned by a member of Pink Floyd, but he would only let him drive it if he could have his book plugged. Product placement and advertising are banned on The BBC, so Clarkson drove around trying to 'subtly work' references to Pink Floyd and the book into his car review.

  Clarkson: In fact, I think the only thing better looking than [the Ferrari F60]...is this book, Inside Out, by [the drummer from Pink Floyd].

  • Men of a Certain Age has Chevrolet as a major sponsor, and the plot of one episode revolved around first creating a straight commercial for Chevrolet's latest model, then a series of zany viral spots on Terry's recommendation.
  • Done brilliantly in one episode of Alice and Bob, where a number of Trope Co products are worked seamlessly into an engaging and thought-provoking plotline. Not only that, they also manage to get across the superior workmanship of Trope Co products, and do it all with a wry, knowing self-deprecation that showcases Trope Co's general easygoing ethos.
    • Man, Trope Co rules. I can't imagine any other market-leading company having such a close relationship with its customers and the artistic community! Are you watching, corporate executives? This is how it's done.

Machinima

  • Played for laughs in The Leet World. After winning the first season, the counter-terrorists return in Season 2 with advertising contracts with WolfCorp, resulting in Westheimer and Chet occasionally inserting plugs for fictitious companies like "Sir Spice-a-Lot's Chicken" and "Koala Cola" into conversations.

Podcast

  • Writing Excuses has a regular plug around the 7 to 8 minute mark. Originally it was sponsored by Tor.com, but when they lack a sponsor for a particular episode they are either shill their own books (the other 'casters hum in the background when this happens) or resort to comedy, including "Buy Dan Bacon" and "Pants".

 Brandon: "This week's Writing Excuses is brought to you by Pants. Pants: You put them on your legs."

Howard: "Well - put them all the way up!"

Dan: "Pants: Put them Back On, Please."

  • All of Slate Magazine's podcasts are sponsored by Audible.com, a site that sells digital downloads of audiobooks. Every one of their Gabfest shows has a break set aside in the middle where they talk about Audible and a tie-in promo offer. The hosts at least try and connect this to the show, by asking listeners to recommend books - but they have to be books that are available in audio form from the sponsor.
    • Actually, name any podcast if it deals with tech or comedy (especially Leo Laporte's TWIT network, which does the tie-in thing on many of its shows); if there isn't a major top 100 podcast in those genres sponsored by Audible, it's shocking at this point.
      • This is no longer the case for Slate- they are now sponsored by an online-backup service (who also sponsors many tech and comedy podcasts). In place of the Audible recommendations is now, on the Culture Gabfest, a Running Gag involving movie critic Dana Stevens spilling chai on someone's laptop.

Professional Wrestling Professional Wrestling

  • Happens a lot on bigger TV events, as between matches the commentators sloppily segue into a plug for the upcoming Pay-Per-View event, a sponsor's product, the latest movie starring one of the wrestlers, etc. Commentators on independent shows will utilize often even sloppier plugs for their upcoming live shows.

Radio

  • Happens plenty in radio, too. One of the most ubiquitous is multiple morning shows getting calls from Tanya Roberts shilling trips to Las Vegas. Many of them try and make it amusing, like Bob and Tom's reading of plugs from their main sponsor Napa.
    • In Australia, Hamish and Andy have this problem. They try to make these plugs entertaining, and while it works to an extent, they're often just unsalvagable.
      • To be honest, it seems very much like they're trying to make it as stupid and forced as possible because the adds are often really really terribly written.
  • Rush Limbaugh has taken to doing this lately. It's quite annoying, especially when one's signed up for his "Rush 24/7" service mainly to avoid the ads.
    • Sean Hannity recently started doing this as well on his radio show, usually during the short segment before the top of the hour. Hannity also occasionally uses callers as a segue to talking about his Escalade.
      • The late Paul Harvey was the uncontested king of this.
      • Hannity's plugging various General Motors vehicles veered headlong into Hypocritical Humour considering how critical he was of the government bailout of GM and Chrysler.
    • As does Mark Levin... it's quite annoying, since they will move into this without warning. "Health care reform is a mess! But do you know what we need? We need Carbonite, to secure our computer data!"
  • One vintage radio show that lampshaded this all to pieces was Fibber McGee and Molly. Midway through each episode, announcer Harlow Wilcox would drop in on the McGees (or they'd run into him while on some errand in town), and would quickly shift discussion of any topic to extolling the virtues of Johnson's Self-Polishing Glo-Coat floorwax. It got to where Fibber or Molly would groan and say "Here We Go Again" or some variation thereof whenever Wilcox - or "Waxy", as Fibber nicknamed him - began holding forth.
  • "The Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes Program, starring Jack Benny!" This was another one that lampshaded it humorously, though: generally Don Wilson, the announcer, would try to bring up the sponsor's product in the middle of sketches, to the other characters' annoyance. Later, when the program was sponsored by Lucky Strikes, Don would get the Sportsman Quartet to perform a Lucky Strikes advertisement song Once an Episode--which they always did against Jack's will, and with his shouted protests in the background.

 Jack: And now a word from our sponsor. Take it, Don.

Don: "Jell-O". Take it, Jack.

And:

Don (as doctor in "Hound of the Baskervilles" sketch): He was always sure to eat his Jell-O.

Jack (as Sherlock Holmes): Make a note of it, Watson.

Kenny Baker (as Watson): "Commercial taken care of."

  • A Prairie Home Companion often segues a dramatic story into a suggestion for Bebop-a-Rebop Rhubarb Pie or Powdermilk Biscuits (in the big blue box!)
    • Note that these segments are fake commercials parodying this trope, as evidenced by their usual appearance after a Trauma Conga Line-type story (particularly true of Bebop-a-Rebop Rhubarb Pie, which tends to be suggested after the character is basically at the brink of death.

Sports

  • Endemic on sports telecasts, with the commentators plugging a show for whatever network they happen to be on every fifteen minutes or so, or just happening to note the stars of a premiering network program in the stands. This probably arose from the (legally required) practice of station identification; the government (in the US and many other countries) requires broadcast stations to identify themselves at least once an hour. The station's owners probably figured that they might as well get some advertising for their other shows in while they were at it.
  • Four words; The AFLAC Trivia Trope Question.

Web Original

  • Atop the Fourth Wall spoofed this, with Linkara's robot double pointing out a plug, and Linkara snaps "Shut up, hippie! He gave me a discount!"
  • College Humor has done this, most blatantly with Trojan condoms. One short (an animated Valentine's Day one starring Cupid, for those curious) was so egregiously rife with the Product Placement for Trojan that nearly all the comments on the video were complaints about it.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Sealab 2021 parodied the trope with numerous, gratuitous, increasingly jarring plugs for "Grizzlebee's", a fictional amalgam of casual family restaurants such as Chili's and TGI Friday's. "Try Grizzlebee's new onion wings with maple-honey ranchapeño sauce!"
    • And the entire episode in question was an episode-long plug for the fictional movie Tinfins.
  • Parodied in one Looney Tunes short starring Daffy Duck as a sadistic radio quiz show host and Porky Pig as the victim contestant. Every few minutes, Daffy would plug 'Eagle Hands Laundry.'
  • The Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Boost Mobile", shockingly contains Enforced Plugs.
  • American Dad Lampshaded an enforced plug for Burger King. Stan and Steve were discussing about how to expose the truth about peanut butter in a National Treasure Whole-Plot Reference at a Burger King restaurant, and Steve asked him why they were at a Burger King. Stan told him that the laws of TV economics have changed.
  • Parodied in the Freakazoid episode "Mission: Freakazoid". The show opened with the announcer saying "This episode is brought to you by Anubis Markets, a division of Osiris Foods. However, this will in no way affect the contents of today's story." But the story was periodically interrupted with Anubis Markets ads, and at the end, all the characters turned to the camera and delivered an extended ad for Anubis Markets ("Food so good you can eat it!")
  • Parodied in this Team Fortress 2 Comic.
  • The latest Futurama Christmas Episode parodies this, especially early and late in the episode.

This page has been brought to you by: Trope Co®! For all your Applied Phlebotinum needs!

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.