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It's an audacious and not necessarily inaccurate vision of the viewer's relation to advertising today, a continuous circle of capitalism and entertainment that blurs the line between your life and the game, the ad and the show, consuming and playing. To Chester, this vision is a sign that "the already tattered distinctions between marketing and content are being obliterated." To consumers, it may make no difference: in a MAY TIME/CNN poll, only 13% said they would think less of shows that took placements.
The dangers for product placers may instead be the same as in traditional ads: overkill, ham-handedness and boring the audience. "Less is more," warns John Lazarus, senior vice president of ad-buying agency TN Media. "If you do too much, it's going to look silly and overcommercialized." Above all, producers and advertisers agree, placements need to be "organic"; an out-of-place product or overly enthusiastic shill (remember Colby gushing over the Pontiac Aztek's capacious luxury) breaks the spell. But organic is in the eye of the beholder. Slagle says PVI recently made a demo with a rerun of Bewitched, adding a box of SnackWell's cookies in the 1960s kitchen of Samantha and Darrin's nosy neighbors, the Kravitzes. "It absolutely fit in," he marvels. "They would be the sort of people who would eat SnackWell's." Samantha will always be in her time warp. But there's nothing to keep Madison Avenue from twitching its nose and doing a little hocus-pocus.