August 26, 1998
Henry Weinhard's and You
An unpaid placement
On a recent episode of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, the
pleasant but wisecracking hostess made one of the most clever self-promotional
gestures I've seen in a long time. In a kooky technology conversation with guest
Isabella Rossellini, she held up a CD Rom package for a video game (which I will not
name, since it's not my product placement), and declared to her enthusiastic
audience, "I have not been paid any money by this company, I just think this is really
a great game. My kids love it."
Clever Rosie! Well aware that her audience is familiar with the practice of paid
placement, she got all the caveats out of the way in order to plug a favorite product.
Who knows if her no-payment claim was true? Or if she even likes the product? The important
thing is that Rosie managed to set herself up as a trusted celebrity endorser.
With this kind of clever management, it's no wonder she's raised the quality bar for
daytime talk shows.
The unpaid placement may seem like a counterintuitive notion. Why ruin your
credibility by shilling for a manufacturer, if you're not being paid to do so? Even the
most craven placing efforts of microcelebrities are
usually posited with a payoff in mind.
But why should this be? These days, audiences have become so accustomed to skillful
placing that a good tie-in may in fact add more credibility to the shill than to the
product being pitched. If you're important enough to be an endorser, maybe
everybody should be listening to you! A front-page story in yesterday's New York
Times reported Federal efforts to save the Bacas Ranch in Santa Fe National Forest,
and explained that the area is significant partly because it "has served as a backdrop
for Stetson hat advertisements and Marlboro Man billboards." No more explanation needed!
Now I see where I went wrong trying to get Grand Marnier to pay me for running their
advertisements. It wasn't just simpleton's modest readership numbers, but the fact that
I would be getting as much benefit from GM's stamp of sponsorship approval as they
would be getting from their appeal to simpleton's enviably well-heeled demographic.
To inaugurate our occasional unpaid placement section, I'd like to take a product
that, as I told the Lou Harris poll, was a favorite of mine long before I started thinking
in terms of promotion, let alone payment. The Henry Weinhard's family of beers
provides drinkers on the west coast a variety of good quality beers at affordable
prices. Smart shoppers can usually find at least one supermarket in town offering
Weinhard's at a Special Price. While the price is often not as "special" as I'd like,
Weinhard's, like Rolling Rock, gives you a chance to buy beer at a Coor's price, but not
have to drink a Coor's-level beer.
Even better, Henry Weinhard's has no official web presence, and the few
sites devoted to the product are
pretty puny affairs.
This gives me a chance to become, by default, the official web page of the Henry
Of course, none of this would be worth a hill of beans if I didn't like the product. But
I do! I even like the packaging. I can say without exaggeration that I have a
Weinhard's just about every day!
On hot summer days like today, I may finish up my daily work (like, for example our popular
advice for children issue of
simpleton), then unwind with some extreme
parasurfing, and cap it all off with a smooth, refreshing chug of Weinhard's Ale.
But resting on the laurels of one smooth, refreshing, but lite-ish beer wouldn't
be Henry's style. On late nights, when I'm cranking out a tough assignment (like
on the dumbing down of America), I might
go for the rich, full-bodied taste of Weinhard's Dark. Or then there's the morning
I finished up the epic
Wankers Miniseries, and the only
thing keeping me from the tasty
zing of a Weinhard's Amber Ale was the prospect of having to put in a full day of work!
And there's more where that came from. Henry Weinhard's also puts out a delicious but
frustratingly hard to find Porter, a Hefeweisen, and even some kind of Blueberry thing,
which you can have as far as I'm concerned.
But for quality beer at an affordable price, nothing beats a Henry Weinhard's. Sure, they're
not paying me to endorse them, but I'd do it even if they were!*
*Henry Weinhard's beverages are best enjoyed in moderation,
so know when to say when!
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