TV product placement dips

Ads on primetime down nearly 15%

At first blush, it’s a finding that sounds like cause for celebration for culture-over-commerce purists: According to a report by Nielsen, product placement on primetime programming for the first six months of 2008 was down nearly 15%.

But don’t break out the bubbly just yet: Even taking into account that double-digit drop, January-June viewers still experienced 204,919 “brand occurrences.” And that decrease represents a mathematical average between broadcast placements, which actually jumped 12% over those six months, and a 20% decline in onscreen cable shout-outs.

The report largely attributes the over-the-air increases to just two scheduling tweaks: NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” broadcast’s second most product-populated skein, premiered its fifth season in Januaryrather than in its usual fall perch, while Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” which bowed in June 2007, premiered this year in April, placing more of its eps in the spring.

Cable saw a drop in placements, thanks to a number of stalwarts airing less frequently or not at all in the annum’s first half, among them MTV’s “Pimp My Ride,” A&E’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and TLC’s “Miami Ink.”

As was the case in 2006 and 2007, the most placed product on the broadcast nets was Coca-Cola at 2,990 occurrences, with health-club corporation 24 Hour Fitness clocking 1,765 appearances. Helping to push Coke to the top was broadcast TV’s No. 1 plug factory, Fox’s “American Idol,” with 4,636 placements.

Overall, however, the Teutel family reigns supreme, as their American Chopper line of apparel and motorcycles rank first (3,706 occurrences) and second (3,223 occurrences), respectively, in primetime. And no wonder: With a jaw-dropping 26,794 occurrences, “Chopper” itself is far and away the tube’s most prolific shill, leaving second-placer “Project Runway” in the dust with 10,316.