For anyone debating the pros and cons of the 2019 Ford Escape vs 2019 Hyundai Tucson, there’s no shortage of resources out there, designed to help influence your decision. Some are unbiased tools intended to assist prospective buyers in reaching a well-informed conclusion. Others are subliminal product placement, achieved by the automakers themselves, through corporate sponsorship. And while the latter used to be easily discernible, marketers from all industries have grown far more cunning as of late, thanks to the viral traction achievable by well-placed internet and social media content.
Consider ‘The Last of the Starks,’ the fourth episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season. In a season widely-criticized for its rushed and often sloppy approach, it was easy for the show’s internet fan-base to find fault with the anachronistic appearance of a modern-day Starbucks coffee cup in front of Daenerys Targaryen during the Winterfell party scene. But was this truly the result of poor production practices, or simply an example of clever product placement?
Regardless of which side you take in that debate, a similar question could be raised by the council scene in the series finale ‘The Iron Throne,’ where (not just one, but) two modern water bottles were visible at the feet of Samwell Tarley and Arya Stark, respectively. Granted, the inclusion of generic water bottles does little to fuel the debate, but two examples in one season were enough to set the internet ablaze.
Needless to say, The Lemon is no different than any other workplace – and the Monday after the finale found any number of our team-members debating the hits and inevitable misses of the episode. From a need for additional episodes to the implausibility of certain character arcs, the discussion raged on. Why was the writing so sloppy, reverting to Hollywood tropes such as Jaime and Euron’s shoreline showdown? Why didn’t Jon just blame Drogon for killing Daenerys and flying off with her? But (argh) those damn water bottles! And that’s when one of our eagle-eyed employees (let’s call him ‘Boosh’) said, “That kind of stuff happened way more than people realize. Just watch some of the old episodes.”
Needless to say, our curiosity was piqued.
Boosh alleged that GoT had always been guilty of sloppy filmmaking and that a number of advertisers have snuck in products over the eight seasons of the popular series. But was he going to tell us what they were? Nooooo. Boosh thinks he’s the three-eyed raven or something. He said we had to find out for ourselves. And thus, we split 73 episodes between members of our team and embarked on a critical re-viewing of each episode. The following is what we found…
As previously mentioned, do you know that both the Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson have appeared in the series? Whether accidental or intentional, these ‘blink or you’ll miss it’ moments make us view the series in an entirely new light. Once a critical darling that could do no wrong, the entire premise now felt cheapened.
Take Season 3, Episode 9 ‘The Rains of Castamere’ arguably more recognizable to fans as ‘The Red Wedding.’ Earning the writing team an Emmy, the episode featured our goodbye to matriarch Catelyn Stark, as well as Iron Throne-hopeful Robb Stark and his new bride Talisa. But look closely, it also featured the Hyundai Tucson lurking ominously in the back.
Was this simply poor cinematography? Had Robb intended to present it as a wedding gift? Or maybe, it was the Tucson (not the villainous Walder Frey) who had orchestrated the entire slaughter. Either way, Tucson sales mysteriously shot up by 7% following the episode.
Or what about Season 4, Episode 9 ‘The Watchers on the Wall?’ Look closely as The Wildlings attack and, to the left of the Giant’s feet, you’ll an out-of-place Ford Escape included in the charge.
It’s quick, for sure… But it’s there. And guess what? There was a 4% jump in sales within the next 30 days.
But the examples stray outside of the automotive marketplace as well. In an early episode, there is a scene featuring Sansa Stark, where a close examination of the background reveals a framed poster of the Disney Channel original ‘Camp Rock’.
While seemingly random at the team, the fact that actress Sophie Turner would go on to marry Joe Jonas makes it an oddly predictive coincidence.
One scene that we were surprised to find had been discovered by a number of viewers was the inexplicable appearance of actor Woody Harrelson, as part of the Night King’s army of White Walkers.
The fact that he is only visible for a second leads us to speculate that he might have been visiting the set, got high, and wandered into the shot. He is, after all, Woody Harrelson.
Even of the series most famous moments, Series 6 Episode 9 ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ features a bizarre moment when – just behind Ramsay Bolton – the iconic Kool-Aid man is visible as part of the forces attacking Jon Snow.
Random? Sure. But definitely an ‘Oh Yeah!’ Moment if we’ve ever seen one.
Long story short, even a celebrated series like Game of Thrones is susceptible to advertiser influence. So if you’re a fan, and felt a compulsion to buy either an Escape or a Tucson in the last few years, well… It appears you got played.
We drink and we know things.