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Friday, March 9, 2012

Dr. House's Big Product Placement Adventure

House's uber-pill

In homage to the final season of House, let's reconsider the series' high-profile product placement of the good doctor's addiction of choice, Vicodin. Many a review and Web comment have assumed that Fox and the drug's manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, are in bed via some sweetheart product placement deal. (As far as I know, both have been mum on the matter.)  Uncritical attribution of joint sleeping arrangements, I think, borders on conspiracy theory.

One thing, though, is for sure: the prescription drug has become a household word thanks to Vicodin's hold on House. A year ago, Nielsen tracked viewer recall of product placements on network dramas and sitcoms from February 1-28. The House-Vicodin team placed second. The drug, in fact, has been conspicuous throughout the series and is every bit the match in scarfability of Reeses Pieces in E.T.

But is that the sort of brand recognition that Abbott Laboratories craves? And does it translate into sales?  When I want/need a prescription drug for pain, my physician typically writes a scrip based on his recommendation. Lately I've refrained from asking, "Doc, my brand of choice is Vicodin" or, alternatively, "I'd like a scrip for the stuff that works so well for House." (Perhaps I need to take greater charge of my own medical destiny.)

Mucho  Street Cred

My physician, of course, didn't  learn about Vicodin from House. He already knew about it as a  pill- prescribing cognoscento. That leaves a final market where the House-Vicodin buzz may have made a difference: the illegal street trade. Here, it's no stretch to imagine that Vicodin,  combined with Dr. House's  "attitude" (he even uses his walking stick on the wrong side to spite the medical establishment) has gained big dividends in street cred and popularity.

It would be cynical though--even for this blog--to assume that the good folks at Abbott Laboratories might somehow approve. Still,  we'd do well to survey whether and how much Vicodin's sales have morphed with its higher profile. And, for that matter, whether the  drug's negative role on the show correlates with sales. (The sales numbers, a marketing professor friend confided, are there for the taking.)

Raising Canes. Drugs aside, House has done great things for another byway of the economy--the market for walking sticks and canes. Begin your makeover at the cane and stick emporium, fashionable canes and walking sticks, which offers ten variations of walking sticks that have appeared on the show, including the Flame, Alpaca Feather, Derby, Tourist, and, of course, the Skull Handle.

Source: fashionable canes and walking sticks
Take it from a Web site that knows its marketing:
Whether you prefer one of Dr. Gregory House's more classic looks or the racy, exciting designs of either the House Flame Canes or the more recently used "Death's Head Cane," you are sure to appreciate these exact replicas of the walking canes used on the show!
And remember, House canes will keep on giving as you keep on aging.  Ditto for the House mystique. Remember, he's not dead, he's in syndication.

Click here for the product placement forerunner, Paris 1882: Edouard Manet Meets Bass Ale.

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