Is Product Placement in ‘House of Cards’ Distracting You?

By Karen Fratti Comment

Spoiler alert: the new season of “House of Cards” is stuffed with product placement. “It’s like one long, dimly lit advertisement,” a friend groaned. I hadn’t noticed.

“House of Cards” is good at two things. One is absurd dialogue. The other is having Frank and his staff drink Fiji water, use Apple computers, Samsung TVs, and fancy accessories. Gamers rejoiced on social media over the weekend because someone plays an independent video game in an early chapter. The placement of games and consoles could be character development (remember Frank cozying up to Peter Russo’s son over a Playstation?) or advertising. This season, someone gets a Windows phone. Is that supposed to be adding insult to injury or is it just a crappy phone? In Washington, it sort of matters what kind of watch a man is wearing, right?

You’re thinking too hard about it. Netflix doesn’t talk openly about the product placement deals they make. This season, it was the “House of Cards” production company, not Netflix, that secured the partnerships. AdAge reported last week that no money exchanges hands. A beverage marketer tells AdAge:

 But as far as fees, no. A lot of time it’s just the point-of-sale, which is signage and stuff that can be used as set [decorations]. And then there’s actual beer and just sending the beer to the right place where they’re filming the movie or TV show…It’s talking to prop masters and set decorators, the people on the ground that are on set back east in Washington, D.C., and Virginia where they film it. We worked with the folks on that show on prior projects. So you build a relationship and trust, the ability to get them beer and signage really quickly.

Sure, the products are obvious, but that’s also just the show’s style of slowly panning over everything, like the lighting. Twitter says it’s distracting:

You are supposed to notice it. Isn’t it more irritating when you see the duck-taped Diet Coke and Fo-ritos on the conference room table? As more content moves to streaming platforms and we mess around with business models for them, there’ll be lots of changes in how we do product placement. You might as well get used to it now. And if you really hate it, don’t tweet about it. That’s what they want you to do.