In one day, the Samsung Instinct is primed to be everywhere, including in your face – at least that’s what Sprint hopes as they get ready to launch their YouTube “Sell Out” contest on June 30th. Sprint will give $20 bucks to the first one thousand people who upload home movies containing a blatant product placement of the Instinct mobile phone.
I’ve always been interested in the practice of branded entertainment and recall a presentation I did for a class in the early 90s on product placement in motion pictures. There are elegant executions where brands can harmonize within the context of the programming. As a kid, I wanted a Pontiac Trans Am so badly because of the show Knight Rider – I grew a genuine affection towards the car in what felt like a natural and organic way…so much so that when I turned 16, I wanted to buy one.
Sprint is taking the opposite approach to product placement and has even called themselves out on it by naming their instinct YouTube campaign “Sell Out”. Their intent, obviously, is to generate buzz in a short amount of time – but does “in your face” promotion foster brand loyalty? How many of you feel good when a pop-up ad interrupts your web browsing experience? For me, product placement done badly is almost as disruptive.
The Apple iPone has become so popular because it's simply a damn good product -- Its success did not come from over-the-top fabricated blatant promotion but by a much more genuine connection with its, now, immense following and loyalists.
If short term buzz is what Sprint wants then they’re well on their way: As I was reading Kristen Nicole’s Mashable post about the Instinct contest, a Sprint ad about the same contest came up on my TV (and, truthfully, freaked me out for a second) – now when TV programming can start to read minds, that’s convergence at its best!