Product Placement in Burn Notice

In my college marketing course we spent some time on the evolution of and different classes of product placement.  One case study outlined the whole campaign replacing James Bond’s Austin Martin (my favorite dream car) with a BMW Z3 (one of my favorite attainable cars).  Despite the successful numbers, I maintain that this did not make Bond fans happy.  James Bond should not drive an “attainable” car.  Alas, I don’t know what I’m talking about since I’ve never seen a James Bond movie.

What I think made this campaign successful was not the actual product placement (the BMW was in the movie for less than 2 minutes), but BMW’s marketing campaign around it.  Pierce Brosnan drove the BMW to the premiere in NYC.  He appeared in the commercials.  BMW dealers created “spy” driving courses.  All of this promotion built on the franchise’s buzz without taking anything away from the movie.

On a lesser known, less prestigious playing field is Hyundai and Burn Notice.  Hyundai is the worst make of car sold in the US (or maybe was).  My first car was a Hyundai Elantra that couldn’t pull a kid on rollerskates down hill.  After it finally died a shameful death, I vowed to never EVER drive one again.  Burn Notice, on the other hand, is one of my favorite shows.  It’s a spy drama – basically an action movie with a sustainable story line.  Just before the Hyundai Genesis Coupe came out, Fiona, ex-IRA, started driving one in the show.  She hot wires cars all the time (necessary due to the high explosion rate of any of her belongings) so the introduction of the new car was relatively unnoticeable.

It started off subtly.  A comment here.  A comment there.  “You never know how good a car is until you drive it through a wall.”  I found myself actually lusting for a Hyundai.  I felt dirty.  But, c’mon – 19″ alloy wheels, 300 hp, 149 mph top speed, 3.8L V6 – and it’s a pretty sick looking car.

Then it went over the top.  The car has lasted into a second season.  It is featured in almost every episodes with lessons on driving in car chases describing the brakes and torque, etc. etc.  In addition to it being blatantly advertised in the show, each commercial break is not complete until there’s a Hyundai commercial.  You can even enter to win one by playing USA’s Black Ops Burn Notice game.

In writing this post, I tried to find clips of some of the Burn Notice scenes to really drive home the point, but they’re nowhere.  Hyundai has posted an excessive amount of “real” commercials and Superbowl commercials on their Youtube channel, but nothing is mentioned of Burn Notice.  This is actually smart.  Even though it happens every minute of every day, no one wants to admit that they are being influenced and sold to when they’re watching their favorite show.  That is why Hyundai needs to cool it a little bit on the self promotion.  I just want to watch former spies do some kick ass spy shit like driving through walls in nondescript stolen cars.

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