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Product Placement To The Extreme

I guess it is fair to say that the holidays are officially over. More likely, the holidays have been over for most of you for a week or two, but for some reason, I still live the college holiday world that crashes back to reality after MLK Day. Hopefully, everyone was able to relax and reenergize for the upcoming year. Despite spending much needed time relaxing, strategizing, and dreaming about the year to come, I did spend some time binging some new shows on Netflix. One of these shows really blew me away and made me think about my job more than I realized. That show was… Hawaii Five-0 (the new version).

Let me state this from the beginning. I know I am way behind the times, the show has six seasons. I am not commenting on the quality of the show or its’ actors. I also have no idea how this show is funded and what models were in place to do so. I am, however, interested in the impact this show may have on the future of content marketing. You see, it only takes a few episodes to realize the show is trying to accomplish 5 things.

1. Make CBS More Money Than A Potential Replacement Show

This is the obvious goal of any show, at least for the network. They are a business and the content they put on their channel needs to generate revenue for that business. Traditionally speaking, that is done through :30 or minute long commercials every 7–9 minutes. But Hawaii Five-0 takes it a step further. They are using an additional revenue model to stay desirable to the folks at CBS: product placement. Which leads the other 4 goals of the show.

2. Make People Want To Visit Hawaii

I am not a beach person. In fact, my friends could tell you a story that might lead you to believe that I am terrified of the ocean. I am not, I just don’t want sea lions near my kayak. That being said, Hawaii Five-0 does a great job making me want to visit Hawaii. Whether it’s the friendly portrayal of the people (excluding the villains), the culture, or the transition shots of surfing and people having fun, you leave each episode checking Kayak for cheap flights.

3. Get People to Fly Hawaiian Airlines

This is pretty obvious if you want the show. Hawaiian Airlines is in the trailer and no other airline is even mentioned on the show. It almost makes it seem that if you are flying to Hawaii there is only one airline that flies there. So far, the creators of the show have made CBS money, convinced you to visit Hawaii, instilled in your mind that flying Hawaiian Airlines is the only way to go. Now, where do you stay?

4. Promote The Hilton Experience.

Unlike the airline tie-in, other hotels are mentioned but not other resort hotels. If a character wants a spa day, they go to the Hilton. If a detective wants to take his daughter to swim in a fun pool, Hilton is the place to be. Need a romantic place to meet a secret love interest, you got it. In fact, the only other place the characters eat or drink on the show is a fictional food truck that is owned by an informant and friend. The choice is clear, gotta stay at the Hilton.

5. Show Everyone How Fast, Strong, and Functional Chevys Are

Outside of the island itself, there may not be a more iconic set piece on Hawaii Five-0 than Danny’s Corvette. They chase down bad guys, drive through mud, and even talk on the blue tooth speakers. Don’t get me wrong I like Corvette just like any other American, but they are put on full display on this show. I may not be running out to buy one today, but its WAY more compelling than “Not Paid Actors” ad has ever been.

Product placement is not new, and neither is this show. That being said, Hawaii Five-0 does it better than anyone I have seen before. As marketers what we must look at is: is this replicable and how can we help our clients see similar benefits.

Replicating this relatively seamless product placement is not as simple it may seem. These products may seem more out of place and obvious if this was Toledo One-7. But there are ways we can help our clients use product placement in better situations. One way of doing it may be to be willing to give up some of the control and have the creators find the best way to fit you in.

What you don’t want is a 30 Rock situation.


If you work in midsize cities with local businesses like we do, getting your client in a show is not feasible, but there are ways to use the same principles. If your working with a vet, sponsor something to do with a dog park. Working with a roofing company, sponsor extreme weather break-ins. Many of you are using these principles but there is always room to go beyond the obvious and really find something to put your client in front of new potential customers and getting more sales.

Time to grow

Many of you are using these principles but there is always room to go beyond the obvious and really find something to put your client in front of new potential customers and getting more sales.

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