Product (dis)integration: Actors oddly silent

Jon Bing‘s “Hard Sell” column today does a fine job of pointing out how contentious an issue product integration has become for Hollywood’s writers.


“Thanks to an endorsement deal with Kraft Foods, flattering references to Oreos were threaded into at least five different storylines across two installments of “7th Heaven.” In one episode, there was a lengthy debate about whether Oreos should be dunked in milk, licked or twisted apart; and one character proposed to another by concealing an engagement ring in the cookie’s sticky, white frosting. ‘If I were the creator, I would have had to take a shower after watching some of that stuff,’ “Desperate Housewives” showrunnershowrunner Marc Cherry observed after the footage was screened at a WGA West press conference last week in New York.”

It’s true that the issue of product integration can be vexing to writers, and that the Guild has barred its teeth over the issue. The question, of course, is how the writers can argue against product intergration without while still getting their fair share of the proceeds when it does happen.

But absent from Bing’s otherwise timely column is any mention of the actors who must read these quasi-commericial lines. TV actors, of course, have long paid the rent with commercials when they’re not on a series, and product placement threatens to make that much harder an already-tough commericials business as it is. Indeed, some actors complain that product integration is a double whammy: Not only are actors not being paid for the work they are doing shilling Oreos, Buicks or beers, but they’re also arguably diminishing oppportunities for those actors who’d otherwise do the commercials in the first place.

You could, to use a turn of phrase the WB might appreciate, call it getting “Double Stuf’d.”