To my surprise, while watching a recent episode of Jane the Virgin, there was an Oliver Twist reference! The protagonist of the series, Jane, is deciding whether or not her son should have access to a trust fund. As she imagines him growing up destitute, this scenario gets created on-screen:
The next episode of the show I watched featured Jane and her family going to shop on Black Friday at Target, one of the show’s big sponsors. Because I was thinking about both Dickens and advertising while watching this show, I wanted to learn more about the show’s relationship with Target. (The brand has been prominently featured multiple times in this show).
I found a cool article that went more in-depth into the show’s relationship with its sponsor. The article cites a Target spokesperson, who says, “The writing comes first. And then products/integration ideas are woven into the content/scene. This is definitely an editorial process to ensure the integration is as organic as possible.” Thinking about our discussion of The Mystery of Edwin Drood‘s unresolved ending and the speculation about the relationship Dickens might have had with his advertisers, it is pretty remarkable that this creator/advertiser relationship has, in some ways, stayed the same, despite its many obvious changes because of technology.
I thought this line of the article was especially provocative: “But on Jane the Virgin, the Target placement is part of a long game for the brand, not a quick money grab by the network. It feels a lot more pointed. Target isn’t a character quirk like Liz Lemon’s obsession with junk food. It’s a corporation’s attempt for Jane to represent a huge chunk of American women.” Product placement that isn’t just a quick awkward use of a non-iPhone smartphone but is instead something that is essential to a character is a rather new concept, and it got me thinking. On the one hand, of course a 23 year old, middle-class, American woman shops at Target, so Target is a natural fit for product integration. On the other hand, does Target being associated with characters like Jane create and perpetuate the idea that this association is natural? Do we think these things mainly because advertising has told us to, causing us (being of that demographic) go out and shop at those stores we’ve been told people like us shop at? Or it an actual reflection of consumer habits in our society that advertisers play up in ads?