After Netflix released its TV series House of Cards a lot of unsatisfied viewers vented their frustration on Twitter. Messages such as two below continue to appear on my Twitter feed:

“Worst product placement I’ve seen yet: Majority Whip Kevin Spacey in House of Cards asking another congressman about his PS Vita.”

“House of Cards is fantastic and I love it but the episode 4 product placement is painful to watch.”

House of Cards is a TV series, produced by an American streaming service Netflix. The project was announced in March 2011 and it will include 26 episodes over two seasons. The first season premiered on February 1, 2013 and the second is now in production.

The series is set in present day Washington, D.C. where we follow congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina and his actions in White House.

After watching the series I can confirm: it has a LOT of product placement. On the first glance it looks like it was sponsored by Apple.

There were hundreds of shots that included Apple products: iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and iMacs.

iPhone in House of Cards (2013, Netflix, screen capture)

Other brands that were clearly visible in House of Cards were: BlackBerry, Sony Playstation, Canon, Ray-Ban, WaterRower, Nike, various brands of TV sets … and many more.


Was it necessary to have so many brands in the show? Probably yes. There are reports of a staggering budget of $100 million. According to Accenture’s media and technology report Multi-tasking and Taking Control it reached quite a substantial number of viewers:

“In the past year, Netflix tested a new strategy by releasing the entire first season of the series House of Cards at one time. Among consumers surveyed in the United States, 9 percent have watched at least one episode. However, an additional 46 percent have at least heard of the new show. Given that Netflix has 25 percent market penetration, this means that up to one-third of Netflix subscribers have watched it.”

Meanwhile Netflix released another TV series in the same way. It was a horror/thriller show called Hemlock Grove and since there’s season two of House of Cards in the pipeline we can expect some more similar TV shows from Netflix and a lot of product placement.

Someone’s got to pay for it :)

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  1. Hi, great blog!

    Don’t quite understand why people are so bothered by these placements. They are not super-exaggerated or anything, and I believe that the way the characters use the products are realistic enough.

    I do understand why many people felt that the VITA-placement was a bit odd, especially since Francis said that he should get one for his car. Everyone knows you can not drive and play at the same time. However; I have some experience as a private chauffer. I drove some politicians and military leaders, and some of them had PSPs and DSs at hand for the longer trips. Or a smartphone with Angry Birds on it.

  2. Hi Spencer.

    Thanks. I totally agree with you, although there were just a bit too many Apple products for my taste :)

  3. Can you do a post on iron man 3? Especially the Mandarins (Ben Kingsley) shades!!