Picture: Sally Scott
Seated on the new Papa Gøs cocktail lounge set is Agnes Matabane 
(Keketso Semoko)
Picture: Sally Scott Seated on the new Papa Gøs cocktail lounge set is Agnes Matabane (Keketso Semoko)

PRODUCT placement and advertising has been around since the advent of media. It seems each year the industry finds new ways to bombard us with products, with some methods being more invasive than others.

Gone are the days when products were subtly worked into a shot. No more does the actor passively take a certain brand of fizzy drink out of the fridge, or place a particular brand of shopping bag on the table. Now, products have found their way into the scripts of soapies.

The latest of these is Gumtree, the online site used to buy and sell goods. This was recently written into the Isidingo storyline.

It feels rather forced when Ma Agnes, played by Keketso Semoko – an older character who doesn’t quite fit the profile of someone who would buy or sell things online – tells her colleague to check the site for great deals.

For weeks, Gumtree has been written into the script, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by viewers.

@TrevorMadondo tweeted: Watching Gumtree, I mean Isidingo.

While some viewers have expressed irritation, others have seen the lighter side of it.

@Sane_N tweeted: wonder how much Skhu got for that Pot he sold on gumtree..Lol #isidingo

Last year, Standard Bank was written into the Muvhango and Isidingo storylines. Imagine my surprise when Lerato, played by Tema Sebopedi, started speaking to her clients and anyone who would listen about Standard Bank’s Access Account.

My first thought was “unabashed product placement, they’re not even being subtle about it”.

Surely commercials belong in the commercial slot, and not taking up valuable space in storylines? The commercial slot for many means running off to do something constructive like check on the dinner or a loo break.

But, according to Standard Bank, going this route has worked.

“We’ve had positive feedback, both from viewers and from customers,” says Kershia Singh.

She says the point of going this route was to educate customers about banking, and help them get more out of their hard-earned money. Isidingo was chosen because it has an established viewership which appeals to their target market. Singh says traditional advertising may not be the best way to teach people about banking.

The bank has also done something similar on another local show, Isibaya.

Singh says the impact can’t only be measured by the number of new clients. “Investing in education through a soapie ultimately moves our customers forward by teaching them about banking in a fun and easy to understand way.”

She says they haven’t experienced any negative aspects associated with product placement.

In November, actor Don Mlangeni skipped over lines that included mentioning Standard Bank. At the time, it was widely reported that he was fired over the incident. Endemol released a statement saying that he wasn’t fired, but it was reported that his bosses were not very happy with him.

In the last few years, Generations wrote Capitec Bank and Pep into their scripts. The fictional advertising company won these accounts, and actors punted the products on the show. Last year, IFA life insurance also made a brief appearance after the death of Mike Mvelase, who played Khaphela Ngcobo. His grieving widow, played by Winnie Modise, rambled on about the funeral policy and life insurance.

While some may think this is the perfect way to reach wider audiences, opinion is divided.

Gerard Kavonic, of advertising agency Kavonic Hone, says there is definitely room for product placement, provided it’s done subtly.

“The subtler it is, the more effective it will be,” says Kavonic. He warns, however, that people are more likely to reject a product they feel has been forced on them. “Advertising has its limits,” says Kavonic.

A website, Brandspotters.com, picks up several tweets which comment on product placements in movies, series, and soapies. While the majority of tweets about the local soaps do not mention the scripted adverts, those who do are scathing.

It turns out, some people do not want to see endorsements or adverts while watching their beloved soapies. Some viewers say advertising has been taken too far, while others accuse the soaps of being mere marketing platforms.

Kavonic says the reason it doesn’t work is because people don’t generally tell their friends about how easy and convenient banking is, or how glad they are that funeral policies paid out in 48 hours. The scripts become unbelievable. It’s really bad when a soap appears to be hijacked by advertisers, says Kavonic.

Internationally, product placement is becoming an integral part of the entertainment industry. An example is Swarovski Entertainment, which produced a screen adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in October, and is linked to the family-owned Swarovski jewellery business.

The feature film, which opens in South African cinemas on February 7, stars Oscar-nominated Hailee Steinfeld, pictured, as Juliet, with British heart-throb Douglas Booth as her star-crossed lover.

Swarovski worked closely with the film’s visual consultant Milene Canonero and costume designer Carlo Poggioli in adorning the renaissance costumes, jewellery, accessories and masks with an amazing half-a-million crystals.

 The crystals were used on 13 ladies’ dresses, six masks and earrings, bracelets, necklaces, hair and head pieces. Juliet’s wedding ring is also set with genuine Swarovski Gems Sapphires.


Product placement tweets

• @CelestialXVI: The advertising on Isidingo…Standard Bank, Gumtree, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital fund- raising. The power of soapies

• @Badvocate_K: Oh yeah, how long is the Gumtree advertising on Isidingo gonna go on?

• @SiphiweDlamini: Every second line is about Standard Bank. Product placement on steroids. It is like a commercial. #Muvhango 

• @RSAsoapies: It's done badly and it’s flippin everywhere!!!” 

• @Kg_Koosh: aaaaaaaargh this thing of product placement in #Isidingo... -_-”

• @ThatXhosaGuy: #generations is taking shameless product placement to the next level!!

• @lindayende: Generations have totally lost the plot with their product placement, thing! An episode is like one long informercial, now. IDIOTIC!!!

• @SegaleMogotsi: Generations: taking this product placement too far. It is becoming too obvious 2 b taken seriously. I wonder how much the advertisers pay

• @TumzaMax: Now its IFA, Dear #Generations, if we wana see promotions we would watch those glomail thingies mxm can we get back to the soapies please

• @ShaunMMS: #Generations becoming more of a marketing platform now, with IFA, Clientele & Capitec part of the storyline…

-  Cape Argus