The 16th episode from the 6th season of Modern Family is called Connection Lost, but I call it as I think it should be called: The Apple Episode. As you probably heard: the whole episode is shown on the Claire’s MacBook screen, it includes a number of different Apple gadgets and features, and was shot with iPhones and iPads.
It wasn’t unexpected that there was news that Apple didn’t pay for product placement. Even more, the idea supposedly came from Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan. He was inspired in part by a FaceTime chat with one of his college-age daughters. “This came from life and it made sense,” Levitan told the Associated Press. Levitan also tweeted about this episode.
If you haven’t seen this episode, you should and here are five conclusions from the Apple Episode.
1. Unorthodox filming works
Even though the whole episode was shown as one computer screen it was done is such a good way that the constraints of the screen wasn’t an obstacle – the authors needed to use everything they could from Apple’s products and they succeeded.
2. Some companies manage to lift product placement on a whole new level
Just as Apple used Modern Family to hype iPad’s launch five years ago, Samsung used The Selfie on the Oscar night last year, this episode present some groundbreaking use of product placement (or brand integration). We could even call it brand partnership. This is definitely one of the strongest entries in the race for the best product placement of the year.
3. Apple continues its good relationship with Modern Family
As I said Phil couldn’t wait to get his hands on then new iPad back in 2010. iPad could be seen in several other episodes, but The Apple Episode is the culmination of their relationship with Levitan & co.
4. The setting felt kind of real
Let’s forget about the business aspect of the episode for a minute and focus on the setting: it’s perfectly possible that the whole (extended) family uses Apple products and behave in a similar – not that exaggerated – way. Family members have iPhones, they use Face Time, iMessages, apps, Facebook, play video games, … and some of them even have difficulties with some new features. In my opinion that’s a remarkable achievement by the team behind the episode.
5. There’s something wrong with the statement that this wasn’t paid product placement
Let’s start with some basic economics: we have supply and we have demand. There are a lot of brands trying to use product placement as their marketing tool (demand) and there is a limited number of good TV shows that can make that happen (supply). If we say that the demand is bigger than supply, then there is absolutely no way that TV show would sell their integrity and product placement opportunities for a low price or even give them away for free.
As a curious observer and without any insider information I can only speculate: I’m not saying that there was money involved, but giving away so much (“The Apple Episode”) for so little (free???) is totally unbelievable.