Bravo's 'Queer Eye" seeks product placement, while critics wince
By Wade Paulsen, 10/29/2003
The NY Daily News reports that the producers of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy are looking to product placement as a means of generating additional revenue during the second season of the hit series. Among the companies looking to appear in the program -- and to get a boost by being associated with the "Fab Five" -- are PepsiCo, Almay cosmetics from Revlon and Pier 1.
Although Queer Eye was already receiving free goods in return for their featured position in the show's "make-overs" of clueless straight men, explicit product placement presents more of a problem for Queer Eye than for most reality shows. Why? Because the "Fab Five" are supposed to be recommending items based on their relevance and their own sense of style. If viewers believed that their recommendations were tied to advertising dollars instead of to their best judgment, the show's integrity -- and its ratings -- could be adversely affected. No wonder that Pepsi, which could benefit tremendously from a Queer Eye link in the "cola wars," is pursuing both the product placement avenue and a more traditional advertising deal, according to Ad Age magazine.
We can understand that the producers of Queer Eye would like new sources of cash, especially since the "Fab Five" have been given significant pay increases. However, we wonder whether adding product placement to Queer Eye may be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
Meanwhile, critics of product placement are seeking to ban the practice altogether, according to the Robins Report in TV Guide. A group linked to leftist lawyer Ralph Nader, named Commercial Alert, is lobbying Congress and government regulatory agencies to require TV shows to identify all embedded advertisements and clearly mark them -- which would give trial lawyers an opening to sue the networks every time a real product showed up on a program.
Are viewers really deceived about product placement? We tend to think that anyone seeing the American Idol judges swill Cokes or the Survivor casts wear Reebok knows that there was product placement involved -- especially when celebrities like Michael Jordan get paid enormous amounts of money just to be associated with certain brands. On the other hand, we think that product placement in a show like Queer Eye is more troubling ... although not troubling enough to get Washington involved, as we believe viewers would tune out a tainted program.
However, some Washington types feel otherwise; Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, for one, seems to be looking for some nice campaign contributions from trial lawyers for advocating the Naderite position and saying that it could "percolate." We think Rep. Markey has mixed up percolate and perks, which are what the trial lawyers are likely to pass out to their friends on this issue.
However, none of that is favorable for Queer Eye's bid for more revenue. So what other options are available? Well, one idea disccused, according to the Daily News, is to expand the Queer Eye brand to include Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, focusing solely on women. Whether this would actually be a separate program or just a subset of the 40 episodes in the second season remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we await the November 18 debut of the final six episodes of the first season, which will culminate with a look at how the "made-over straight guys" are doing on December 16.
Oh, and we note that, according to the Windy City Media Group, one of the studios of AOL Time Warner (New Line) has bought a script for a "reverse" Queer Eye situation. The story, entitled What A Man's Gotta Do, features a straight man being taught (by a mechanic) how to behave LESS like a "metrosexual" and MORE like his grunting forefathers in order to win the woman he loves. Nice to know that Hollywood's still making fantasies.