America's Least Wanted: Top 10 TV Product Placement Offenders

Product placement is annoying. You can’t TiVo through it, it’s distracting, and you can’t get rid of it. Neilsen has compiled a list of the top 10 shows with the most product placement advertising as well as the top 10 offending advertisers. Quite unsurprisingly, FOX’s American Idol comes in at the top spot with 4,086 occurrences of product placement. Yuck.

Read the lists inside.

Top 10 Programs: Product Placement

Program Network Total # Occurrences
American Idol FOX 4,086
Amazing Race CBS 2,790
Extreme Makeover Home Edition ABC 2,787
The Biggest Loser NBC 2,478
America's Next Top Model UPN/CW 2,309
King of Queens CBS 1,954
Hells Kitchen FOX 1,909
The Apprentice NBC 1,831
Rock Star Supernova CBS 1,609
Big Brother 7 CBS 1,591
Total 23,344
 Top 10 Brands: Product Placement

Brand Total # Occurrences
Coca-Cola Soft Drinks 3,355
Chef Revival Apparel 1,592
Nike Apparel 1,307
24 Hour Fitness CTRS-CLUBS 894
Chicago Bears FTBL TM 604
Dell Computers SYS 556
Cingular Wireless TEL SRVCS 533
Nike SPRT FTWR 497
Starter Apparel 496
SLS Electronic Equip Speakers 489
Total 10,323

Source: Place*Views, Nielsen Product Placement Service

The Chicago Bears? What? According to Nielsen product placements fell in 2006, probably due to the airing of more dramas. Apparently, it’s more difficult to shoehorn Coca-Cola into CSI than King of Queens.—MEGHANN MARCO

U.S. Advertising Spending Rose 4.6% in 2006, Nielsen Monitor-Plus Reports (Press Release) [PR Newswire]


Edit Your Comment

  1. It’s interesting that Sears didn’t appear on the list but that “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” did. Do they not count companies that bankroll shows as “product placement”?

  2. OnceWasCool says:

    They should look at company websites.’s website looks like a yard sell compared to cnn or msnbc.

  3. mantari says:

    What is even worse is that you get product placement AND commercials. It is like the worst of both worlds.

    Again, this is just another example of corporations (often reporting to shareholders) trying to maximize profits, and at the expense of the product itself. Where these is healthy competition, a direct cause-effect can be seen. In quasi-monopolies, they can get away with it much longer.

  4. chimmike says:

    I knew I had an incredible urge to buy that chicago bears coke bottle, and the chef-style nike shoes, and a cingular wireless phone to listen to music at a 24hr fitness club……

    whoops, maybe I don’t pay enough attention, but I didn’t notice any of that, nor make any purchases of those brands (except for coke for the various ‘beverages’ I consume) haha.

  5. chimmike says:


    bankrolling a show is different from product placement……Sears is a brand, not a product ;)

  6. jmoeller says:

    I don’t watch American Idol, so maybe someone can clue me in on this, but I thought the show consisted of people singing, the judges giving their opinion, and people voting. Where does all this product placement come in to play?

  7. MeOhMy says:

    Only one of these shows that I watch is Amazing Race. Aside from the cars that they drive, I really can’t think of any product placements, so they must not be very obtrusive/obvious. Anyone know what they are?

  8. JPropaganda says:

    There’s a huge difference between simply placing a product into a show and making a show ABOUT that product (branded entertainment.)

    Some shows are excellent about integrating products into their plots. But it’s ridiculous to complain about either of these things: they are what bankroll the programming we enjoy. If you don’t like it, stop watching TV.

  9. Kornkob says:

    I also wonder if they miss product placements on medical dramas.

    GE medical image machines routinely show up on medical shows with their name brands in plain view, brand specific technical language used and descriptions of what the machien does leaking into conversation.

  10. konstantConsumer says:

    really, as long as the product placement is done well, i don’t mind. if it saves me a couple of commercials, then i’ll take it.

  11. AnnC says:

    Tivo is the reason product placement is becoming more popular. The next thing to look forward to is dynamic product placement. It already exists for sporting events (many of the billboards during games are photoshopped in). It won’t be long before Randy, Paula, and Simon’s coke cup is replaced with a blue mug and the logo photoshopped in by the network or even the affiliate.

  12. kerry says:

    I only watch two of those shows but they’re both enough to bug me with the product placement. (ANTM and Hell’s Kitchen, if you’re curious.)
    Good for the occasional laugh, though. “Smells like cupcakes!”
    Kornkob reminded me of something — Nuvaring spends a lot of money on product placement on Scrubs. Nearly every hospital nurses station shot has a Nuvaring poster in the background. Personally, I like that kind of product placement, since only a person who would have a need for that product would notice the ad in the first place.

  13. I always thought Blind Date should be getting that scrill from at least one liquor distributor. Seagrams… when you really want to get to know someone.

  14. lihtox says:

    King of Queens is the only fictional program in that list, right? It seems more jarring to have product placements in a fictional program, but that might arise from my disdain for reality programming.

  15. mattshu says:

    Isn’t American Idol on TV something like 9 or 10 nights a week. That would seem to drive down their average a bit.

  16. jonnypage says:

    The only product placement I agree with is the Extreme Makeover, these companies are donating their products to make people’s lives better, and should be recognized in the show as such. The rest of them can stuff it.

  17. robbie says:

    Where these [sic] is healthy competition, a direct cause-effect can be seen. In quasi-monopolies, they can get away with it much longer.

    @mantari: what on earth are you talking about?

    anyway, has anyone seen the product placement in 30 Rock? they actually make it part of the show. the honesty there just adds to the entertainment value.

  18. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Honestly, I would prefer subtle product placement in a tv show, in exchange for less actual commercials. It seems these days, you only get about 40 minutes of content and 20 minutes of commercials for a 1-hour tv show.

  19. Buran says:

    @Kornkob: GE and HP make a lot of those. It’s not surprising. If you want to be realistic, best to use the actual equipment that’s actually used in laboratories and hospitals. It adds realism for me – I’ve done labwork before – more than having the equipment be made by, say, Weyland-Yutani Corp., or however that’s spelled.

  20. blchrist says:

    Nuvaring also has posters on the wall during Grey’s Anatomy. I rarely notice them, but my wife always does.

  21. Hexum2600 says:

    @Kornkob: The other part of that is that product placement of something like a can of coke is something that everyone can buy and it reaches 100% of their audience… at least its relevant to 100% even if not everyone drinks soft drinks or the like. But as far as medical machines go… I don’t even know what the heck they are doing half the time in shows like that, let alone would I recognize the brand name, nor would I have any influence on purchasing of those products. Its not like I go into the doctors office and say “Hey, what kind of machine is that? Unless its a GE, no way are you using that on me, buddy”

    As well, I heard somewhere that most forensic investigators don’t watch shows like CSI because the inaccurate and impossible technological feats are irritating when its your field. I don’t know, as a computer scientist who loves bad hacker movies if this is true, but if that is the case with medical dramas, I see almost no point behind the brand placement except for realisms sake.

  22. He says:

    In most car shows, they get all their parts from sponsors for a partial discount and have a segment dedicated to showing you parts from various companies. It’s very upfront and helps them stay on the air.
    Kinda like how John K wants to make commercials so he can make cartoons his way w/o meddling execs:

  23. konstantConsumer says:

    @mattshu: dude, you’re an idiot. there are only 7 days in a week!

  24. JPropaganda says:

    @robbie: Yea, 30 Rock does a great job of mocking product placement while doing it at the same time. The Sarah Silverman Program also did an excellent job with Tab Cola. I think the best program for branded entertainment, though, is Entourage – they’ve had entire plotlines about XBOX games, or brands of motorcycles or shoes, and it’s seamless while making sense to the characters.

  25. infinitysnake says:

    Funny you should mention it- my husband anbd I wqent to the movies last night, which featured a parallel universe in which there is only one kind of beer, andywhre. It was actually pretty distracting.

  26. mac-phisto says:

    speaking of product placement…anyone catch the “xbox loves you” float that crashed the european release of sony’s ps3? that was pretty funny.

    kotaku had a little blurb about it:

  27. Keegan99 says:

    “Product placement is annoying. You can’t TiVo through it”

    Consumers started skipping the commercials, so show producers needed another way to deliver value to the advertisers that pay for the shows.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

    Do you seriously expect TV shows with zero product placements in a near-future era when DVRs are ubiqitous?

  28. Joafu says:

    Did anyone else buy an Audi after watching ‘I Robot’?

  29. tcabeen says:

    Funny, I don’t watch any of those shows, and the only of the listed products I consume is Coke. And even then, I only ever drink 2 or 3 cans a week (mostly with whiskey).

  30. jaredharley says:

    Out of that entire list, I don’t watch a single one of those shows, and the only products from the list I regularly use are Coke (I much prefer Pepsi, but not everyone has it) and Dell.

  31. HearsMusic says:

    @Troy F.: The Amazing Race is such an excellent show that the product placement almost goes entirely unnoticed. The first-place winners of each leg always win a prize, in many cases a trip from Travelocity. The cars they drive are prominently featured if it is a model available in the US.

    What I was really surprised to see missing from the list are the Bravo shows Top Designer and Top Chef. Placement is way over the top on those shows, especially Top Chef‘s Kenmore kitchens. Kenmore gets about 10 mentions per show by that woman with the annoying accent (Padma? Padme? Can’t stand her.)

  32. rrapynot says:

    When American Idol gets shown on ITV2 in the UK all the product placement has to be blurred out. Product placement is illegal there and ads are limited to like 4 minutes per hour divided up into no more than two or three breaks.

  33. ACurmudgeon says:

    anyone notice that text/branding is now become prevelant nearer to the center of the screen instead of the bottom? And to me the length of time that logo’s and names stay up in commercials has risen? Just wondering if anyone else noticed, but I think that many commercials are designed to still be identifiable during ‘fast-forward’ with DVRs when the seek bar is up, obscuring the bottom portion of the screen.

  34. shekondar says:

    I’m actually surprised CSI didn’t make the list…on a recent episode there was about a 5 second slow-motion close-up shot of one of the cops putting Duracell batteries in his flashlight. Plus there’s the Nikon camera in every other scene, the cars, etc.

  35. Kornkob says:

    Product placement predates Tivo and other DVRs.

    Well done product placement is subtle. Like slipping in the rather natural ‘So the efdex guy dropped off this package’ into the script.

    In fact, I frequently find language that has been scrubbed of any specific refereces to be more jarring. Not once, for example, have I heard someone talk about a ‘delivery driver’ dropping off a package here at work. It’s always the ‘fedex guy’, the ‘ups guy’ or ‘the mailman’.

    The GE medical equipment fguring into a plot so closely— it’s not just about trying to get people to ask for a particualr scan machine or the like. It’s about getting the average joe to be more familiar with and thus more comfortable with, fancy new technology for diagnosis instead of more common testing. More facilites will buy the product if people get used the idea that ‘real’ medical equipment that saves lives in a dramatic way looks like the thing they see on Grey’s Anatomy or House. (I think it was Greys’ where the ER had a bone densiometer in it– even though bone density is one of those diagnositics that is never an ’emergency’ and has no business in an ER).

  36. Shutterman says:

    Has anyone noticed that on a whole lot of TV shows every single character has a Motorola Razr cellphone?

  37. juri squared says:


    American Idol prominently places Coke via Coke-branded cups on the judges’ table and the “Coca-Cola Red Room” (pictured with this story). Check out the Coke bottle-print couch.

    They place Cingular/AT&T by reminding people to text message their votes in via that service, complete with a shot of Ryan Seacrest holding up the phone du jour.

    Finally, they have a promotion deal with Ford in which the contestants film a different Ford commercial every week. The winner also recieves a Ford car – a Mustang if I recall correctly.

    I watch AI; it’s a guilty pleasure for me. I just liken the rampant product placement to watching a sporting event. Just look at all the “X Brand Play of the Game” type segments, the logos all over the stadiums, and the scary number of ads shoehorned into one game.

  38. juri squared says:


    I noticed that on “House” last season! Everyone had a freaking Razr. I have a high tolerance for that sort of thing, but that was ridiculous.

  39. @loquaciousmusic: mmmm, Tears for Sears. Excellent show.

  40. MeOhMy says:


    The first-place winners of each leg always win a prize, in many cases a trip from Travelocity.

    Interesting. I did a little bit of googling and found mention of using the Travelocity Gnome in events (like digging up a gnome and carting it to the pit stop). I guess I never considered those to be product placements – the advertisement needs to be sort of insidious, in my mind. Like superimposing a Coke bottle on a table during post processing.

    After all – if prizes on a game show count as product placements, The Price Is Right has to be the king of them all. :-)

  41. not_seth_brundle says:

    @HearsMusic: Good call about the Amazing Race product placement. I was wracking my brain for that one as well. Now that you mention the cars, it also occurs to me that occasionally they’ll deliver clues via a Sidetrack or Treo or other device, or have contestants check an AOL account for their next clue.

  42. hop says:

    hah, i don’t watch any of those crap shows…….

  43. FLConsumer says:

    Only saw Amazing Race once…which was more than enough crap for me. Product placement on that show was blatant, to the point of absurdity. They just dropped you off a helicopter in the middle of nowhere….and you’re going to reach for a cell phone and see perfect quality video? Doubtful. Even the way they did it was some of the worst scripting I’ve seen, to the point that it made me wonder if the “contestants” were just “actors” reading lines.

    As far as American Asshole goes, I refuse to watch that show. Product placement is annoying, but the lack of true talent (and judges willing to rip people to shreds) bores me. Maybe having worked in the real music industry, I’m a bit jaded. Kinda like the way medical staff usually are bored with medical shows like ER and Gray’s Anatomy.

  44. caerulea says:

    I see no mention of the rampant use of Dell or Apple computers. Mind you, usually the Apple logo is covered with a silver foil circle sticker, but the Dell logo is plain-as-day on the backs of all those flatscreen displays and laptops. Check out ER and CSI next week to see for yourself.

    And what about iPods? The term “iPod” has become the “aspirin” of the 21st century, with Average Joe referring to ANY mp3 player as an iPod. But on the TV shows, characters are toting the real thing. And everyone is happily referring to them as such.

    Not that I mind at all. I’m a bit of an Apple whore myownself.

  45. kerry says:

    @Shutterman: Yes I have! I’ve also noticed that a lot of shows have people’s ringtones set to the default Cingular tone, a very sly form of advertising. Sure, the character never mentions they have a Cingular phone, but I know they do just from how it rings.

  46. EnderVR46 says:

    INO, any time a real world product is used on a show, it’s a product placement. The only time it annoys me is when everyone uses the same product like someone above mentioned about a movie with the same type of beer everywhere.

    Otherwise, it’s a lot better than made up products, or blacked out labels. They have to support the show somehow and this is better than a commercial break.

    Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, etc. have been doing this for years now, so it’s not like it anything new.

  47. caerulea says:

    @caerulea: OOPS! I just noticed Dell in the top ten. Now I’m embarrassed. Ah well… still no sign of Apple though, and their EVERYWHERE :)

    Ah well. It’s been a long day :P

  48. MeOhMy says:


    Product placement on that show was blatant, to the point of absurdity. They just dropped you off a helicopter in the middle of nowhere….and you’re going to reach for a cell phone and see perfect quality video?

    Are you sure you weren’t watching Treasure Hunters? Treasure Hunters was so flagrant that they actually called the clues “Motorola Messages.” The largest sponsor had its name all over everything, including the logo and sometimes their logo would be superimposed post-production onto landmarks and scenery. The best part is that I can’t remember the name of the major sponsor without looking. Guess they didn’t do a very good job :-)

    The clues on The American Race are almost always paper clues.

  49. gnappulicious says:

    i’m surprised that tlc’s what not to wear didn’t show up here. i laugh every time i see the slow-mo shot of the woman handing over her bank of america or visa card to the cashier…

  50. Landru says:

    @caerulea: I’m guessing that when the Apple logo is covered up on ibooks, it mean that there was no product placement agreement. I remember wondering when ipods first showed up on shows whether it was product placement or just used to make the character look cool.

  51. Marcus says:

    I’m amazed that no one has mentioned what I consider the best example of product placement around: 24. There’s more Dell and Cisco in that show than any IT environment in real life.

    The thing I like about 24 is the placed products do things that they could actually do in real life. Considering television’s record *ahem* csi *ahem* of creating magical computer systems that seem to have the investigative power of Holmes on crack, that’s pretty impressive. Even if it does mean we have to hear Chloe blather on about how “Cisco’s network self-defended!”

    Maybe I just noticed because I sell I.T.?

  52. Hirayuki says:

    @kerry: The lead character in Medium has a cellphone that rings with a polyphonic version of the Nokia tune. It caught my eye because it was a flip phone before Nokia made flip phones. If that was product placement, doesn’t it kind of defeat the purpose by drawing the viewer’s attention to something that doesn’t even exist?

  53. raceroh says:

    Damn those “reality’shows forcing the masses to view real products…’s that insidious Hansa Corp. that has me worried.

  54. TWinter says:

    I’m not surprised that King of Queens is up there. Doug, the fat guy, is a total junk food and beer addict. They can easily write whole scripts around Doug lusting for Twinkies or Dorritos and it seems like perfectly normal behavior for him.

  55. acceptablerisk says:

    @Marcus: You’re right, the Dell and Cisco presence in 24, is kind of ridiculous. But realistic product portrayal in 24? Evidently, you don’t remember Jack Bauer’s magical Treo from the earlier episodes.

    “Chloe, I need you to upload a program to my Treo to diffuse this bomb/hack this keypad/do my laundry.”

    It seems like they’ve toned that kind of thing down recently, but it used to hilarious sometimes.

  56. MarkMadsen'sDanceInstructor says:

    As if “reality tv shows” weren’t bad enough already, it turns out these shows are also trying to stuff soft drinks, gym membership, chef apparel, and the Chicago Bears down our throat. I can’t wait until the reality tv phase blows over and is nothing but a bad memory.

  57. AcilletaM says:

    I just keep thinking about how every other sentence contained “Kenmore Kitchen” in Top Chef and how much I still won’t buy it. Well, that and Ilan/Marcel beating out Sam/Elia to the finals.

  58. crankymediaguy says:

    konstantConsumer says:

    “really, as long as the product placement is done well, i don’t mind. if it saves me a couple of commercials, then i’ll take it.”

    That’s the thing, though, Dude. It DOESN’T save you any commercials. It’s ON TOP of the increasing number of commercials.

    In the past couple of years, the number of commercial minutes (NOT counting the product placement) has risen to nearly one-third of the total show time.

  59. missdona says:


    The magical Treo made an appearance last night. It had a Palm Apps screen with the word “Blazer” at the top (without the Blazer Icons) and then it loaded… Sprint Picture Mail.

    It was just like seeing my own Treo (with Sprint Picture mail) on TV.

  60. voodoodle says:

    you could just stop watching tv….

  61. I find the banner ads they have covering up the the show I’m watching much worse than most product placement. I think the only product placements as bad as large, noisy banner ads are the American Idol Ford ads and the contact lens product placement in Smallville (which they’ve stopped doing).

    I don’t get the musical numbers for the Ford ads. Most national car ads are actually good. Why have a cheesy musical number instead of a decent car commercial?

  62. Theseus says:

    As a loyal Tivo user who almost never watches live tv or a commercial anymore, I have to say that for me it’s the cost of having a huge supply of nearly free entertainment at my fingertips.

    Different if you don’t have a DVR, but if you do I think you need to suck it up.

  63. Mr. Gunn says:

    8/9 of the shows that I recognize are reality shows, which everybody knows are just vehicles for product placement. Where’s the news here?

    That’s neat about nuvaring in the medical shows. I think it’s kinda like an easter egg in a program, finding out what hidden messages they’ve put in the show, even if it is just “Buy my product”.

  64. Brad2723 says:

    I prefer product placement to commercials. It is much less intrusive to watch a character in one of your favorite shows drink a Coke than it is to have that same show interrupted by a Coke commercial. You know it has gotten particularly bad when you can cut nearly twenty minutes off of an hour long show just by fast-forwarding through the commercials.

  65. kerry says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: A couple weeks ago my boyfriend poked his head in the room where I watch TV while Lost was on, and saw the little Dancing with the Stars dancers twirl across the bottom of the screen. The best part was that at first it looked like it was some David Lynchian turn on the show, not an ad. When they showed a closeup of the dead Russian later on he said “wouldn’t it be great if they lifted the eye patch and the little dancers came out?”

  66. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Seeing equipment or vehicles doing something they really can’t drives me nuts. My wife refuses to watch any Military themed fiction shows becuase I constantly point out things that are BS…I guess I am just a cranky vet.

  67. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting how there is a forum to complain about product placement? The article states the American Idol is the BIGGEST OFFENDER, which it probably is. However, It is also the most popular show in America.

    As a television producer I assure you, without the product placement, there would be NO SHOW!

    So what is it America, can you deal with the advertising, or do you want American Idol on On Demand, and you can pay for it every time you wanna see it??????

    Its expensive to make TV!!! Someone’s got ot pay for it!