Sopranos Product Placement Watch: Season Six, Episode One

Posted by: Jon Fine on March 15, 2006

I cannot be the only person to notice how many brand names get mentioned, with great frequency and flattery, on the otherwise ad-free Sopranos.

I know I’m not the first. During the last Sopranos season, I wrote a story about this for my previous employer, Advertising Age, that grew out of a conversation with top editors there. (Read: I cannot claim credit for the idea.) They noticed that, seemingly suddenly, there were a lot of brand references on the Sopranos. Like—a lot. Suck-uppy mentions of Whirlpool washing machines, for instance.

The Sopranos, a show I like very much, does not do product placement in the fee-for-sense. Nor does HBO, although at times they’ve played footsie with the idea.

On the other hand, if, as I said in the Ad Age story, Tony drives an Escalade and the Cadillac logo appears in the frame whenever he’s shown in the driver’s seat, if he touts Nissan’s “triple-safety philosophy” when giving an Xtera to AJ, if he visits Adriana after a car crash and says his monstrous Escalade “probably saved our lives” … well, fee-for or not, it’s clear that cadging free vehicles from carmakers doesn’t come without attendant costs.

The product placements that jumped out at me during a first viewing of Season 6, Episode One, graded on a one-to-ten scale of egregiousness:

Porsche Cayenne. Carmella’s new car. She can’t stop talking about it, either.
Egregiousness: 9. What is it about the Sopranos and cars?

Cingular. Tony’s cell phone carrier. Brand name shows up onscreen during a close-up of Tony’s battery running out.
Egregiousness: 2, since an enraged Tony sends the phone flying two seconds after the brand appears onscreen.

I suspect I missed some brand references and please let me know if I did.

UPDATE, 3/20: Several people pointed out via email or by commenting below that I missed one whopper was missed. A careful re-viewing of the first episode revealed:

Nesquik. Emblazoned, full-screen, across a model railroad car snaking around Bobby Bacal’s garage.
Egregiousness: 8. For a moment, it’s the only thing you see onscreen.

Reader Comments

kassa

March 16, 2006 10:09 AM

Carmela invited Mrs. Sack to go to Occitane, and one of the opening shots was a closeup of a Nestle train car that Bobby was playing with.

Rich

March 16, 2006 1:25 PM

Jon,

Funny you mention that. The group I was watching with last Sunday we all had a bet how much Porsche must've paid HBO for that. I said $250k.

Also getting a bit tired of seeing Chrissy rip back Marlboro Lite after Marlboro Lite.

All this aside - WHAT A SHOW!

Rich

Sam

March 17, 2006 3:38 PM

You missed a few... In the opening montage sequence, we see one of Bobby's model train cars emblazoned with a Nestle logo stopping in front of the camera for a few seconds, and in another shot we see Eugene opening a FedEx package.

The whole P.P. thing became particularly apparent to me during season 3, when Anthony and his friends head into a convenience store for a Snapple. The dialogue went something like: "Hey guys, I'm going to grab a Snapple. Want one?" Shameless.

Great show, nonetheless.

Sean

March 21, 2006 5:01 PM

Cafe La LLave, my favorite pre-ground relatively cheap grocery store espresso, served proudly at Satriale's...(behind the Feds eating their sangwiches)

pete

March 22, 2006 8:33 PM

Come on, no one mentioned Philips TVs? The logo is an inch high!

GAIL

March 29, 2006 9:34 PM

I THINK THE BEST ONE WAS WHEN TONY THRU THE PHONE AND BROKE IT, AND THEN LATER TOLD AJ THAT HE GOT A JOB AT CIRCUIT CITY AS A PHONE TESTER.

Ron

April 1, 2006 10:53 AM

no one noticed the Armani Glasses!! how BLATANT!!

Brian Bauer

May 1, 2006 3:30 PM

"Otherwise AD FREE" sopranos?

are you SERIOUS?

Ever since the very first episode -Coke, Sprite, Budweiser, Ensure, Bud Lite, Dos Equis, Kinkos, Timex, and at least one mention of McDonalds.

"New Jersey Bride", "Chicken Soup for the Soul" (season 2), Starbucks, Ragu, Dom Pernion, and Uncle Bens, (season 3), CNN, Prairie Farms Dairy sour cream, Vespas, (season 4), Motorola (season 5), and recently Jimmy Deans, Jamba Juice, Blockbuster Video...and those are the ones off the top of my head.

I will admit they (and the show itself) are getting worse -kicking off the sixth season with two MAJOR PPs within the first two minutes.

There was this article I read that commented on a rather long shot of a rather large YOUR AD HERE sign in the 3rd season. He attributed it to a clever reference to the fact that HBO/Sopranos will not do the PP thing. Clearly, this is not true and never was.

CHenry

May 10, 2006 12:06 AM

Tony mentions Centrum multi-vitamins, pitching a swag op to Phil Leotardo in S6, "The Ride".

One of my favorites: in S3, "Pine Barrens" Paulie suggests going to Morton's steakhouse, later he's moaning about his Caddy, The Russian's apartment was a high-end domestic entertainment appliance show.

Robert

May 23, 2006 5:18 PM

That would be so gay if they didn't show the band symbols. If they showed Tony's new SUV without the flash of the cadilac symbol it would seem like just any other SUV. I loved it when they had that maserati car. If you steal for a living what you have is the measure of your worth. just like rappers have bling, just a step further

Dave V

May 26, 2006 2:13 PM

Hello,
My favorite scene involving product placement is from an episode a few years back when two FBI agents are talking in a car in front of an Office Depot. From the camera angle, the logo on the front of the store is very prominent. Then, for no reason whatsoever, one of the agents says he's going into Office Depot to buy some batteries. No reason was ever given for them being parked in front of an Office Depot and the statement about the battery purchase was entirely irrelevant to anything. The whole scene is about 30 seconds long so its pretty much the same thing as a commercial.

Winerzzz

September 7, 2006 7:22 AM

i widh I could conclude with "great show though..." but these constant namedrops provoke a feeling of mild inner rage which unfortunately prevents me from relaxing and enjoying the show.

"Yew gat da new Porsha!"
"Yeah... Cayman Turbo. Da new one."
"I've wanted that for months!"
*SFX* (sound of Satan's undercarriage being fellated)

ARRRRRGHHHH!

Sopranos, you are off the artistic rollcall forever.

Reiver

October 9, 2006 7:28 AM

Very true. These name drops jar so much they can at times stop me enjoying the show. It may sound silly but some are just too much. The motorola comment in S5 ep2 "Is that the new motorola "Yeah it's supposed to be the best" is more blatant than all but the worst ads would dare to be.

Lily

October 13, 2006 8:07 PM

Those red coca-cola cans always feature. The guys drink them at each meal. Once Tony was in his garage and there, right behind him on a shelf, was entire pack of Coke bottles.

Alexandra

May 29, 2007 11:41 PM

I thought Bobby's train that rolled across the scene said Nestle, not Nesquik. It cut from a scene where Janice was breastfeeding Domenique.

I doubt Nestle would have paid for that since they sell formula.
http://www.breastfeeding.com/advocacy/advocacy_boycott.html

Paula

September 10, 2008 12:25 PM

On the episode featuring Fuero's? housewarming they played and talked about a music album. i really liked the music, but did on catch the name. Do you know what it was?

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