The fourteenth episode (S03E14) of The Big Bang Theory has some very interesting product placement, although it’s very unlikely that they were paid for. All of these were spoken placements and occurred in bizarre contexts. But that was expected, of course.

First placement happed in the scene at the university cafeteria when Raj suggested going roller skating:

“Hey, it’s Disco Night at the Moonlight Roller Rink in Glendale tonight.”

Leonard and Howard are excited about the idea and they agreed a double date. But Raj protests because two buddies stole his brilliant idea and he’s left alone:

“I’m happy just to guide you and your ladies to suitable entertainment choices. I’m a walking brown Yelp.com.”

Raj and Howard at the Moonlight Roller Rink in The Big Bang Theory S03E14 (2010, CBS, screen capture)

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Later in the cafeteria Leonard and Howard are planning their night out.

Leonard: “So roller skating. Should we all grab a bite to eat first?”

Howard: “Good. P.F. Chang’s? My mom has coupons.”

P. F. Chang’s China Bistro is an American restaurant that serves American Chinese cuisine and according to Wikipedia it’s also frequently referenced in the animated sitcom South Park.

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The third and the funniest brand mention occurred at the Cheesecake Factory where Sheldon is in an apron and he’s cleaning tables. Penny is of course confused, but Sheldon explains her why he’s there:

“I asked myself, ‘What is the most mind-numbing, pedestrian job conceivable?’ Three answers came to mind: tollbooth attendant, Apple Store genius, and ‘What Penny does.’ “

“Now…since I don’t like touching other people’s coins, and I refuse to contribute to the devaluation of the word “genius,” here I am.”

BTW, the Genius Bar is a tech support station located inside every Apple Retail Store, the purpose of which is to offer help and support for Apple products.

Sheldon is explaining three most mind-numbing, pedestrian jobs in The Big Bang Theory S03E14 (2010, CBS, screen capture)
Sheldon is explaining three most mind-numbing, pedestrian jobs in The Big Bang Theory S03E14 (2010, CBS, screen capture)

Those examples are not REAL product placement because they’re really mocking the brands, but nevertheless the presence of the brands in the script shows that these are in fact powerful brands. The screenwriters have used them in a funny and non-harmful context and that’s still better than no use at all. Otherwise they could choose imaginary or no-name brands, but with lesser effect and quieter laughter.

When those situations occur brand managers can’t do much about it. Those placements generally happen without their knowing. But it sure helps if they have a sense of humor.

What do you think about mocking the brands in movies or TV shows. Can it be harmful or can it help build brand equity.