We're accustomed, by now, to unsubtle product placement on TV. We accept the intrusion of Nissans into every other frame of NBC's "Heroes." We don't flinch when Fox's "American Idol" set shares its color scheme with a Coke bottle. We accept that every statistic uttered during a sports broadcast is sponsored by some company or other. So it says a lot about the unexpected reach of Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion - and the fervor with which Fox Sports has embraced it - that so many people would find this one so dirty. So Orwellian. Whether it is or not.
So dirty? Orwellian? So many people? Here is the single complaint actually reported in the article:
"A World Series game broke out in the middle of a Taco Bell commercial," grumbled CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell, who calculated the free advertising for Taco Bell: $8 million over two games.
The article concludes with this Op Ed piece [emphasis mine]:
It's Clayton who seems the big loser here - shilling for Taco Bell without getting a dime. Fox Sports, though, is bearing the brunt of the frustration, a signal that viewers might be reaching their limits when it comes to accepting the devil's deal that sponsorship entails - or drawing lines when the players get involved.
Using the players to shill for your sponsors - however innocently - seems that much more unseemly. And when announcers do it, too, it's no wonder that the skeptics have the day.
We've been trained to accept product placement when we know there's a quid pro quo. We understand that the networks have to pay the bills. But given the festival of endorsements that every sports game has become, it might have been nice for McCarver and Buck to show more restraint. Talk about Taco Bell once, if you must. Because you must. But give away publicity like so many free tacos, and the viewers will start questioning your motives.
Exactly who is so frustrated here besides Darren Rovell?
Plenty of folks may be fed up with the gushing announcing of Tim McCarver, but the Taco Bell ads are the least of McCarver’s issues. Meanwhile the Rockies are getting thumped, Ellsbury is a budding star, and Taco Bell has pulled off a publicity coup by linking themselves to his performance and fame.
Could it be the folks in the Globe newsroom who are feeling frustrated? Has the subject of advertising been a source of frustration at the Globe recently?