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Extreme Makeover: A Product Placement Dream

Posted by: David Kiley on April 7, 2005

ABC’s Extreme Makeover sucked me in for two or three episodes. The drama of down and out or otherwise victimized families getting a real house to live in makes for good story telling. But beyond that, it’s probably the best example of appropriate product placement on the air today.

Product placement will reach about $4.25 billion this year, according to PQ Media. That’s a 23% surge from a year earlier. As more and more consumers, like me, skip more and and more ads via a DVR, the 30-second commercial is going the way of the nightly network newscast.

Many product placement deals are obnoxious and ham-fisted. The Apprentice comes to mind. Extreme Makeover has several sponsors with prominent placement deals: Sears, Ford and Pella Windows to name three. Seeing the designers go off to Sears every episode and deck out the house with Kenmore appliances, is not just a sponsorship, it’s integral to the subject family getting their lives back. The best looking Sears products are featured, so the whole deal is far better than any 30-second ad the department store’s ad agencies have created in 20 years. Pella windows, likewise, is nicely showcased in the show without being obnoxious about it. And, of course, Ford, is the one providing vehicles to the family. What’s a new garage without new sheetmetal in it?

Here is one caveat on the reality show as product-placement canvas: how many of these can people watch before it gets old. I’ve seen three episodes, and I feel like I have seen all the ones I missed and all the shows they’ll ever do. Down and out family, war widow or handicapped person lives in a shack. Ty Pennington arrives and builds a showplace in a week with round-the-clock crews. The crews don’t think they will make the deadline. They miraculously do. Family comes back to showplace. Everybody cries. This show faces the same problem Pennington’s old show, Trading Spaces, has faced. It all gets old, fast! Unlike the long running Law & Order, whose story format doesn’t change, the writing and acting isn’t good enough on reality shows to sustain itself for very long.

And here’s a pet peeve. In one of the shows I saw, one of the kids was given something like five electric guitars. The show has a tendency to drift to excess. I wonder about what happens in some of these neighborhoods full of tumble-down houses that suddenly has a house worth seven times as much or more than any other house on the block and the family got it all for free. Envy can be an ugly thing. What’s that dynamic like after a while?

But, hey. That’s me. Some fifteen million people are watching Extreme Makeover, about twice the number that reads this blog every day (I wish). And it’s the best ad buy Sears has made in a long time.

Reader Comments

Norma Jenkins

May 10, 2005 3:54 PM

I think Extreme Makeover Homes are wonderful. Even though I don't live in delapadated house, I need another bedroom for the baby my daughter is having in September. She and her husband, 4 year old grandson and I live in a three bedroom house. I'm disabled and can't work. My son-in-law is the only one paying the mortgage and bills so we can't afford anything. We desperately need another bedroom and bathroom. My grandson's room is too little for two kids and mine is the same way.
My address is Norma Jenkins, 1218 Oakmanor Circle, Hewitt, Texas 76643.
My telephone is 254-857-8650
Please help me. I'm praying to God that you will answer my prayers.
Thank you,
Norma Jenkins

alvis conway

February 28, 2006 1:03 PM

I would like more details on getting a home makeover


April 6, 2006 5:06 AM

you should just sit and think then do your thing!!!!!!


November 18, 2006 4:37 PM

This product placement article is great. I am personally disgusted and dissapointed in Extreme Makeover: Home edition which exploits disabled people and capatilizes on the idea that they are helpless and pitied. I would like to see a report with more numbers such as how mush Sears pays ABC for their placement and how much commercials cost during the show that makes audiences 'feel good about themselves while sitting in front of the television'.

cher winchell

December 2, 2006 2:18 PM

Im asking for help for my friends in Monnet MO
Howard & Joyce Silvus their home burnt. 0nce then they moved into it to clean up and while Joyce was with her daughter the house exploded on her husband. thier had been a leak from the fire i guess that wasnt found. husband was lucky to live.. everything is lost and home. Can someone call her or him 1-417-393-9296 joyce/ howard -1-415-393-9030/ please call them they really need had 2 fires in it. they will explain better than myself.
Thank you for your help.
Cher Winchell 1-972-837-2636

michael hill

December 31, 2006 11:48 PM

The ABC program "Extreme Makeover-Home Edition" is a slap in the face to any homeowner in these United States. I watched an episode this evening - 12/31/06 - and I had to ask myself, "Who in the hell pays for this?". Not the broke down family nor their "goodly" neighbors.
The guy they made such a fuss over had cancer and we find at the end, through a dedication, he is now deceased; that was a bad move ABC, show more taste. Eat the money if you have to. Wait, I am talking about "reality" television, right? Do what you want ABC, its good for the ratings.
On a serious note, I have had my head opened up four times to remove tumors - a kind word for cancer - and I live on disability in a 50 year old house. One can image what a 50 year old home in the NE is like. I could surely use a home makeover but in no way will I grovel at the feet of Mickey, Pluto and Donald nor place myself in the tax jeopardy situation those people face. When the IRS gets wise those folks will suffer as do those that are squeezed for lesser reasons.
The kitchen they put in that house is larger than the floor space I have here and was shocking. They set the oldest kid up with a video editing studio; that's neither inexpensive nor necessary for life and a new bicycle would have been more than appropriate. The now deceased man was setup with a workshop full of tools Tim Allen would envy. All courtesy of Sears.
Special emphasis was put upon the fact the neighbors were behind it all as this family is seemingly such an integral part of the neighborhood it had to be done. Whadayaknow...they got a brand new house; a phoenix from where the shack was razed. Define makeover for me...Paint, new carpet and kitchen cabinets or ...Brand new house?

Well, this is the network of Oprah so anything short of a castle would be a disappointment, right? Did they get brand new his-n-her Hummers to park in the new garage as well?

Somewhere, way back in my mind, I have the thought that $300B+ could do a lot of extreme makeovers to a lot of homes. Some got mere tombstones.
I may seem envious of those that give over to Disney but, no. I'm truly curious, just like so many more who have seen these shows may be.
"Who pays for the free new house"?
I will exercise the one choice i have towards this or any other radio/television programming that does not suit me. To many find this one option very hard to implement; turn the dial.

janette simmons

July 7, 2007 6:50 AM

Please help ,I need a complete patio,shower, and big walk in closet make over; My mom a extreme hard worker died of colon cancer at 75. Father ,World war 11 veteran,also hard worker died short time behind mom; I am grateful to live on the same street deceased singer, legend, James Brown's father lived on, I always feel blessed for small things,Thanking you in advance!!!
Janette 7330188 ext 3010.

r brown

September 19, 2007 11:10 AM

i am 59 years of age and on total disability and a tornado done damage to my roof on my mobile home and i cant aford to replace it or have it fixed


December 7, 2007 10:49 AM

Who can we turn to for help. My husband is disabled, I work and my kids live in the house with us. We live in a house that really needs so many repairs we can't afford to have them done. We have a lot of trees in our yard, which limbs have fell and caused damage to the roof, which has caused leaks to the roof and its a very unsafe environment for the family and small kids. We have water damage to ceilings and bathroom walls, weak spots in floors and no one wants to make loans when your credit score is too low or if your house doesn't bring enough value to borrow money? Can we obtain a grant or get help renovating the house. We don't know where else to turn. The house needs to be renovated for a handicapped person who can barely walk sometimes. Who can we turn to for help. We live in Richmond, Va.


December 30, 2007 11:35 PM

i dislike this show for several reasons. mainly becus they go so far overboard,ie, backyards that rival amusement parks, kitchens set up like 5 star restaurants, theme bedrooms bordering the rediculous, etc etc. tone it down a bit and 20 families could be helped instead of one. the houses stick out like sore thumbs in the modest neighborhoods they are in.


January 30, 2008 12:21 PM

Get a life folks. Why would you be jealous or angry about something good happening? These people lives are changed for the better and they are more able to help others. C'mon. Where's the love? Try doing some good yourselves. I think you will like it.
ps. Hang in there all you people who need help NEVER GIVE UP and keep the faith.

Paul Sadowski

February 17, 2008 9:41 PM

We've been trying to get the attention of the show, so we can donate "Picture Pages" it is the perfect setting for this unique product. We would love to be able to decorate a "Picture Pages" with the updates of the house and leave it at the sight with the family. "Picture Pages" is a very low tech photo album/scrapbook that we created and have patents pending on. Take a look at

Angela Kirkland

March 18, 2008 3:54 PM

I would like to find out about how to get a makeover for our house. it was built in 1920. my grandmother had it for 30 years and would not let anyone do things to the house.she passed away june of 2007 and we bought the house but do not have the funds to remodel. i have had 5 back surgerys and have a 18 year old daughter that wants to go to college but i am on disabiity social security and it only pays me 700.00 a month. the house still has the same carpet it had when my grandmother bought it. I really could use some help. Any help at all would be appreciated!!!!okla

jim kinney

May 28, 2008 7:52 PM

heres some folks that could use some help the town of parkersburg ia 222 homes were distroyed 400 were damaged by an f-5 tornado that went 50 or 60 miles on the ground the need the help of anyone

Michelle McCollum

November 16, 2008 6:23 PM

I would like to see Extreme Home Makeover get together with Best Friends Animal Sanctuiary in Utah and find a way to build more of them expecially here in northwest Arkansas.Did you know every week there are aprox. ten thousand humans born in the United States,and seventy thousand dogs and cats born? it's no wonder our shelter's are full! Please spay and nuter your pet's too!

Nina Broyles

November 30, 2008 8:50 PM

Dear David Kiley, the writer of this article. The point you apparently miss is WHY millions of people watch Extreme Makeover. Yes, it is the same plot every episode, admittedly, but that is also part of the WHY. For one hour, people who tune in every week get what perhaps you dont. Some feel joy to see others lives healed with the help of their community, and yes, sponsors such as Sears and Ford. To those having a hard time, it is a sign of hope, when hope seems lost. To others, it makes them appreciate what they do have, whether it is a safe home, good health or a family intact. Gratitude, compassion, generosity, humility, joy, hope, perserverance...and it all fits neatly into one hour - a way to finish off a weekend, and prepare for the next week.

Not Crazy

December 8, 2008 8:20 PM


While I am sorry for the hardship people are going through, this is the Business Week website, not the ABC Extreme Makeover website. If you want a frickin' home makeover, go to ABC's website and follow the steps on their website. And how many kinds of crazy do you have to be to post your address, phone, and full name on Internet under a news article? Good grief.

martha bryant

January 6, 2009 6:34 PM

I need help husband had surgey in 1-24-08 came home 8-1 08 and now in abed in can not walk on stand in power chair I have to give him bed bath because chair will not fit bathroom or in bed room so hes bed is in liveroom help me and my 15year old she takes live hard and we can not do any thig together help

kristal baldwin

May 20, 2009 1:30 PM

i have a uncle in law who resides in south bend, indiana who is the 4th family to reside in this 60 year old home and my uncle in law is the 4th generation to live in this home. my uncle in law goes by uncle chubby, who worked 8 years in south bend, in. now has gout, cancer, in a lot of pain. uncle chubby's mother and uncle resided in this home and for uncle chubby and his brothers, this is home and i would not want him to lose it now. while raising a son on his own since the child was 12 years of age. the boys' mother died and uncle chubby is left raising him which is great considering we have a lot of dads who don't want to be dads. uncle chubby applied for social security 3 years ago and is just now receiving the benefits at the cost of about to lose his home and the city is on him because he is not physically able to keep it up. i am asking if you could really help him i would greatly be indebted to you. a little about uncle chubby is that he helps everyone and will give you his last, but now he needs help and there is no one here to help him, yet uncle chubby still helps people; which is how its supposed to be but oh we got a lot of users in america and we as people have to look over that. so this is my story to you about uncle chubby. thank you for your time and patience.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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