Last night, a new series started in the time slot following Sex and the City, a show called My Boys. It’s hailed as SATC for 2006. Basically, it’s about a bunch of guys and a jock girl who hangs out with them. Or, maybe the jock girl and a bunch of guys who hang out with her. Either way. All but one is single, and the show stems around their ability (or lack of it) to get dates. The show is sponsored by Match.com.
Did I mention the show is sponsored by Match.com? That’s what the announcer said when the network cut away for a commercial break. In fact, the announcer said that several times, and yes, there were Match.com commercials featuring Dr. Phil and some ditzy redhead who, herself, had trouble getting dates.
All that was well and good. The show’s dialog was where it needed to be, and the commercials were where they needed be. Dialog, then commercials, just like it’s supposed to happen. Until! All of a sudden, right smack in the middle of a scene, one of the characters said something about Match.com. What?!!! Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Did you just violate the sanctity of editorial content by inserting the name of the sponsor? Bad enough we see product placement all the time in movies and television, now it has to encroach itself upon the dialog? And this happened in each of the two episodes that was presented that night.
You may not believe this, but I felt violated. Here I was watching what was supposed to be a comedy, only to find out it was a 30-minute infomercial for Match.com. My “trust” in the entertainment value the show was trying to convey was totally gone. I’ve contacted both Match.com and TBS to voice my complaint. (So, OK, I need to get a life.)
That brings me to the PayPerPost part of this screed. In my view, there’s not a lot of difference between inserting a mention of a TV show’s sponsor in the dialog and writing a blog post about a product just because the blogger is being paid to do so. It’s one thing to write about a product or service you believe in, even if you receive some remuneration for doing so, but to do it merely because you’re being paid seems vulgar. How can I trust anything the blogger has to say? How can I know he/she is writing from his/her heart, reflecting their true passion. Even if the blogger discloses the fact they’re being paid, that doesn’t really make the post more palatable.
I tend to side with Jason Calancanis, former CEO of Weblogs Inc. He has a commitment to keeping editorial content pure. Put the ads in the sidebar or between posts or at the top of the page, but keep them out of the copy itself. That’s the way it should be…whether it’s dialog or blog post copy…the ads go one place, the copy the other.