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Making Marketing Happen Blog

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Could You Please Pass the Salt?

Have you ever watched the TV show “The Closer?” Did you see this season’s first episode? I was recently clearing shows off my DVR when the marketer in me spotted a promotion woven into that episode’s storyline that is unlike any I’ve seen before. I can’t decide if I think it is marketing genius or if it is a marketing “Hail Mary.”

Briefly, the episode’s plot has a woman who has just been caught cheating on her husband return to her house to reconcile with him and try to get him to confess to killing her lover. The police have put a wire on her and tell her to yell the word “salt” if the husband starts hurting her. The woman keeps repeating the word “salt” before entering the home. Then, when her husband attacks her, she yells the word “salt” again and again.

Why am I making a big deal out the use of a word that is uttered daily by billions? Because the episode aired right before the movie “Salt,” starring Angelina Jolie, was about to open in theaters. And in an earlier scene that took place on a street in LA, a bus drove by in the background with an advertisement on it for the movie. Coincidence? I think not.

By now we are all used to seeing product placements in movies and on TV shows. (In my opinion, no company is better at it than Apple). Many of us have become desensitized to movie dialogues that include company taglines and jingles. “Baby back ribs” being sung about in Austin Powers 2 comes to mind.

The promo in The Closer is different from so many others because there is no product for the viewer to see and no overt reference to the movie is made. I suspect that the movie’s promoters think that repeated use of the most basic of words, “salt,” in The Closer will lead to it being more top-of-mind for TV viewers.  That way, when these TV watchers decide to go to the movies, they presumably will have a higher recall for the word and be more likely to go see the film. Might we call this an example of “pseudo-subliminal advertising?”

It’s an interesting marketing technique, but I question whether it worked. What do you think?

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