How Some 21st Century Shows Are Better at 21st Century Tech

When The Atlantic Wire took a look at shows we thought portrayed 21st Century tech in a very 21st Century manner, we explained the phenomenon in terms of literary value and practicality, but there's another factor at play here: Advertising. It's not all about setting the scene, symbolism or commentary, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Peter Burrows and Andy Fixmer point out. There's money at stake here -- technology often comes in the form of a product, which means a company might have paid for that gadget to appear on TV. What makes a show most authentic, it seems, is that it cares more about its own reality than about brand-agreements.

RELATED: 'Jeopardy!' Win Behind Him, Watson Seeks Billions on Wall Street

It sounds absurd from a business perspective, but some shows do, in fact, care more about having a genuine feel than making money off product placement ads. One such program is one we also singled out in our round-up of tv that does tech right: Modern Family. "Executive producer Steve Levitan has on multiple occasions nixed eight-figure product placement deals that don’t feel true to the plot," an anonymous branding expert told Burrows and Fixmer. The show often has entire plot-lines structured around our modern gadgets and it always feels just right, as we discussed in more detail earlier this week. Now we know why. Levitan thinks beyond the product. He told AdAge's Brian Steinberg that he turns down 90 percent of product placement requests. In fact, that entire episode about Phil's iPad, was done without any money from Apple, as Apple doesn't pay for its produce placements, according to Burrows and Fixmer. When creators write something like that into a plot, it feels more natural than an awkward, in your face brand-name thing in the middle of a scene, which often happens with product deals.

RELATED: Hacker Mag Condemns Pro-WikiLeaks Hackers

Considering Apple doesn't outright pay for its integration, we assume the creators of Girls have the same dedication to authenticity. (Though, the company does offer some perks, "Apple won’t pay to have their products featured, but they are more than willing to hand out an endless amount of computers, iPads, and iPhones," Curb Your Enthusiasm producer Gavin Polone told Burrows and Fixmer.) Hannah uses an iPhone, which is prominently featured in the opening scene of the most recent episode, which begins with the familiar sound of an incoming text message on an Apple phone. Hannah also uses MacBook laptop. That feels right, she's a hip 20-something writer living in Brooklyn. If she used anything else, HBO might make more money, but it would feel very, very wrong -- unless we got some sort of joke about her neo-hipsterism. The same goes for 30 Rock, a show we did not mention in our round-up, but has featured a lot of Siri and Apple related jokes. Just last night Tracy Jordan had a conversation with Siri, in which he asked the bot to bring Jessica Tandy back to life. (Siri's response: "Tracy, Jessica Tandy's Zombie is coming to find you.") The Glee kids have been seen with iPhones and Mac laptops, too. 

RELATED: 'Human Virus' Snakes Through Twitter

Of course these shows are getting something out of it (free phones!), but they could be getting actual money from other companies. Shows that take this tactic, however, lose out. Gossip Girl, a show we did not single out for its use of tech (and not just because it's kind of embarrassing to watch), didn't show any of its characters using iPhones due to a contract with Verizon, explain Burrows and Fixmer. "For most of Gossip Girl’s first four seasons, none of the hit show’s glamorous teens carried the most talked-about smartphone of the last five years," they write. Even back in 2008, the actors behind the main characters were split iPhone and BlackBerry users. And it would have furthered that uptown v. downtown thing the show had going on to give its hip lower Manhattan characters with iPhones. But, Gossip Girl went for the brand deal instead of something more in keeping with its own reality. 

RELATED: It's Not Facebook's Fault—It's Yours

Perhaps as a nod to Hollywood, there's a lot of integration happening that serves to make the show more genuine, rather than an awkward obvious in-show ad. Apple products were in more than 40 percent of top movies last year. And were discussed or flashed on TV shows 891 times in 2011, up from 613 in 2009 -- all of that inspired by costume design and props, rather than advertising. 


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • OIC asked to complete review of peace pact with MNLF
    OIC asked to complete review of peace pact with MNLF

    The Philippine government is asking the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to finally complete the tripartite review process of the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The review – snagged  for several years as government had its hands full with the peace process with rival faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – tackles how the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF has been implemented and centers on the three remaining …

  • Alleged Binay dummies appear in Senate probe
    Alleged Binay dummies appear in Senate probe

    Eight of the resource persons ordered arrested by the Senate finally attended the 21st public hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee into the alleged anomalies involving Vice President Jejomar Binay, but the proceedings turned out to be a review of matters previously presented. For over three hours, the subcommittee heard presentations regarding the alleged hidden assets of Binay and the issue regarding the supposed P200 million in kickbacks he received from a deal between the Boy …

  • DOJ wraps up Mamasapano probe
    DOJ wraps up Mamasapano probe

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) is wrapping up its investigation into the “massacre” of 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A joint team of prosecutors and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) investigators is about to finish the second part,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has told congressmen. She was responding to questions raised by former senior police officer and now Rep. Samuel Pagdilao of party-list …

  • APEC meet in Bataan seen to boost tourism
    APEC meet in Bataan seen to boost tourism

    BALANGA CITY, Bataan – More than 2,000 delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and international media outfits are expected to enjoy the splendid coastline of Bagac town, which faces the West Philippine Sea, as they converge for a workshop in this province next month. …

  • DOST opens P54-M research facility
    DOST opens P54-M research facility

    A P54-million research and development facility of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was recently opened in Bicutan, Taguig for scientists and researchers to develop technology and techniques to allow Filipino fashion and clothing designers and manufacturers to produce more mainstream products from local, tropical fabrics like piña, banana and abaca. Science Secretary Mario Montejo said the Innovation Center for Yarns and Textiles (ICYT) is the DOST’s flagship effort at reviving …

  • DFA worried about alleged violations of convicted Pinoys’ rights
    DFA worried about alleged violations of convicted Pinoys’ rights

    Philippine embassy officials in Doha have raised their concern with Qatari authorities over coercion and human rights violations in the alleged forcing of three Filipino workers convicted of spying to provide information and confess to the crime. Speaking to reporters, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose yesterday said the embassy has raised the matter during several high-level meetings with Qatari officials and the national human rights committee in Qatar. “Our embassy …

  • US affirms ‘ironclad’ promise to defend Phl
    US affirms ‘ironclad’ promise to defend Phl

    US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told his Philippine counterpart on Wednesday that Washington’s pledge to defend the Pacific nation remains “ironclad” and called for an end to land reclamation in the South China Sea, officials said. In talks in Hawaii with Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine secretary of national defense, the Pentagon chief “reaffirmed” the strong ties between the two countries and discussed territorial disputes in the contested waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has been …

  • ‘Conflict to affect economic growth, stability in SEA’
    ‘Conflict to affect economic growth, stability in SEA’

    Conflict in the South China Sea can affect economic growth and stability in Southeast Asia, New Zealand warned yesterday, amid China’s aggressive reclamation activities in disputed waters. New Zealand is marking its 40 th year of diplomatic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and hopes to intensify trade and other linkages with the 10-member grouping. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping territorial claims with China over the Spratly …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options