Improvised iPod Placement on The Apprentice?

So I was catching up on my Apprentice episodes after getting back from vacation and I noticed something interesting in the episode from two weeks ago. The two teams were competing to see who could set up the best Nescafe promotion in 48 hours. They each hired event planners to help them set up the actual promotion in downtown NYC (which ate up most of their $75,000 budgets), but they also had to come up with their own prize giveaway ideas.

One team decided to give away $10,000 cash, but the long-haired hippee guy (Danny) from the other team had the bright idea of giving away iPods instead. He seemed to come up with the idea on the spot and another team member even piped in (wrongly) with “The Minis are only $300!”. The team seemed to discuss the idea for a couple of minutes and then someone inexplicably said “Ok, so the bottom line is that we’ll give away HP iPods”.

HP iPods?

Who would think to say that on their own? I rewound the scene several times on the Tivo to see who said it and the voice appeared to come from off-camera. It sounded like Danny’s voice but Danny was on camera and his lips weren’t moving.

Fast-forward to the promotion itself. The Apprentice team put up signs in their promotion booth saying “Win an iPod from HP”.

So here’s my question: How exactly did HP get injected into this episode of the Apprentice? The team clearly seemed to come up with the iPod idea on their own, but by the time the promotion ran, the HP brand was all over it. If I had to guess, here is what I bet happened:

  1. Long-haired hippee guy comes up with iPod giveaway idea.
  2. Apprentice producers go to Apple and ask them if they’d like pay for iPod product placement on the show (knowing it’s going to appear on the show anyway).
  3. Apple says “Thanks but no thanks.”
  4. Apprentice producers, perhaps already having a relationship with HP, remember that HP distributes an iPod too and approach them with the idea.
  5. HP says yes.
  6. Mentions of the “HP iPod” are dubbed into scene in post-production and the Apprentice collects product placement fees.

I wonder how often this happens in the world of reality TV. I watch an unhealthy amount of it, but I’ve never seen anything as seemingly improvised as this. Usually product placements are labeled clearly as such and scripted well in advance.

25 comments on “Improvised iPod Placement on The Apprentice?”. Leave your own?
  1. Alex Metzger says:

    It seems weird that Apple would deny them product placement, it’s one of the most aggressively placed products in entertainment today. My guess is that step 2 and 3 didn’t happen.

  2. Scott says:

    If you notice the computers are used in each episode of the Apprentice you will see, yep you got it, the HP logo.

    What happened is probably more along the lines of:

    1. Contestants come up with the iPod idea.

    2. Producers already have an agreement with HP, so they make them use HP branded iPods

    3. They dubb in the HP iPod line.

    The Apprentice always has poorly done dubs, a lot of Donald’s lines are voice overs (seemingly).

  3. Mike D. says:

    Alex: Yes, I agree that it’s weird too, but why would HP get the mention and not Apple? It seems plausible to me that The Apprentice was asking for a lot of money and Apple figured they already have enough free exposure with the iPod these days.

    Incidentally, I’ve also seen Apple products on other reality shows without it being a paid placement. For instance, a couple of seasons ago on Survivor, they set up a Powerbook with iChat and let the contestants chat with their loved ones remotely. Never in the whole sequence though did they mention Apple, Powerbooks, or iChat. If Apple paid for the placement, they certainly would have. My guess was that iChat was simply the easiest way to do what they wanted to do, so they asked Apple for money, Apple declined, and they used the technology anyway.

  4. Mike D. says:

    Scott: Good information on the other HP placements. You and Alex are probably right. For people who wondered what good the HP deal would do for Apple, this appears to be a prime example. HP pays for the placement, Apple gets the exposure for free.

    After all, the person who watches this episode will not run out and look for an HP iPod… just an iPod.

  5. Ben says:

    Maybe Apple’s marketing folks (who are rather brilliant, as we’ve seen) realized what was going on, decided that they would probably get free product placement, and that as long as an iPod was used people would associate it with Apple more so than HP.

  6. Ray says:

    HP offers an iPod? News to me; )

  7. Dimitry B. says:

    I noticed that too and laughed at the $300 Mini’s price tag. I don’t believe HP even distributes iPod Minis, only 20gig and higher.

  8. Vladimir says:

    Its rather sad how much commercialisation has taken over today. I mean, yes its TV, but you’d think that even with something as detestable as reality TV they could avoid doing things like dubbing in advertisements just to make a quick buck.

  9. Joe D'Andrea says:

    This just in: After reviewing the ep on the trusty TiVo, I’m fairly certain it was not Danny, but Michael who was off-camera and asked with a healthy dollop o’ disdain: “O.K., so the bottom line is we’re giving away HP iPods?”

    What struck me as odd about the promotional banner was that it read “Apple HP iPod” vs. what I would have expected for a deliberate product placement: “Apple iPod + HP” (note the plus sign). Not only that but – yikes – even the font choice was seriously out of whack! (See? They should have used sIFR.)

    Perhaps Michael happens to own an HP Media Center PC and the words just tumbled out that way. :)

  10. Mike D. says:

    Ok, well if it was Michael, then that makes things even more interesting because he was also the only one arguing against giving away an iPod and in fact he even said, “I don’t even know how to use an iPod.”

    I also agree that the haphazardness of the sign is weird. You’d think HP would insist on using the standard language.

  11. Jeff Wheeler says:

    I surely never would have noticed that, but I’m amazed. Donald Trump is not a very good person in my opinion. This time he is going to a new low to get money – having contestants sell endorsements, kinda. That’s pitiful.

    I think Apple didn’t want to do it because they did not want to associate themselves with Trump, and the low marketing techniques he users.

  12. Dimitry B. says:

    I don’t undestand why Donald Trump is not a very good person. This is more directed toward NBC and the producer’s of the show. Im sure Trump wasn’t like “Hey! Why don’t we capitalize on that idea and make some money.”

    Of course he could have, but from reading a lot about him as well as his book, I doubt it.

  13. John B says:

    “I watch an unhealthy amount of it”

    This sentence doesn’t parse. I didn’t think you could watch too much reality TV…


  14. Tony says:

    Did you see that a marketing exec from HP is leaving to go to Apple?

  15. Don says:

    Yep, I only heard Ipod. The HP part went right over my head. In this past weeks episode they had a contestant (or whatever they are) listening to some device while laying on his bed. Danny … well he’s history now isn’t he.

  16. Josh Bryant says:

    Its funny that you wrote about this. I totally noticed this while watching, not about the different voice, but about how quickly it switched from being just Apple iPods to iPods from HP.

    In other news, how do you feel about the apprentice this season? I really feel it lost its quality business aspect and just introduced more drama for the sake of drama. I am not impressed with any of the candidates thus far.

  17. …I’ve never seen anything as seemingly improvised as this.

    Wow. Did you not watch The Restaurant? That show was full of dubs, changing “credit card” to “Amex”, which is, of course American Express who was the main sponsor of the show. It got so ridiculous that half-way through the season I just quit watching. (There were a few other reasons, albeit, but that was the main one.)

    Dubbing and major changes for product placement is a very normal thing now. Most companies/shows are just a little better at it.

  18. Mike D. says:

    Samuel: Interesting. Yep, never watched The Restaurant, but it sounds like a real dubfest. I’m pretty sure it’s a Mark Burnett production as well.

  19. Alex in Los Angeles says:

    Ok, so who won?

    Did the iPods prevail over the $10K? :)

    (Editor’s Note: The iPods lost unfortunately. Probably not because of the iPods though.)

  20. Reverend Dan says:

    Maybe they meant HP iPAQs?

  21. Mike D. says:

    Josh: I think you’re right about The Apprentice sacrificing business sense for drama, but hey, that’s TV these days. My money is on John… the Vince Vaughn looking guy. He seems to be pretty solid. I know there’s going to be a lot of pressure to NOT pick another white male as the winner, but hey, he’s good.

  22. Apple has a standard product placement policy … they will provide the production with computers, iPods.. anything they like .. but they refuse to pay. It’s a standard policy @ Apple.

  23. Dean says:

    I never knew HP made ipods till reading this thread. To me, ipod=Apple.

  24. Creford says:

    I’ve searched HP ipod by Google. It seemed HP offered HP ipods.
    Good story, Mike.

  25. iPod + Reality TV?

    Mike Davidson wrote about this on his blog: Apparently iPod’s have become popular enough to get their own improvised advertisement on Reality TV. On the reality TV series The Apprentice there was a bit of advertising for the HP branded Apple iPod. Suppose

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