Primed Time TV

The Wall Street Journal reports on the emerging TV trend called “behavioral placement.” It’s an odd term, but is a reworking of the practice of product placement, in which a sponsor’s goods show up in the show. Behavioral placement focuses on behaviors – energy conservation, say – instead.

Here’s the rationale:

TV has always had the ability to get millions of people to mimic a beloved character. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City” stopped in at the Magnolia Bakery, fans of the show wait in long lines for the once-quiet shop’s $2.75 cupcakes. When Jennifer Aniston as Rachel on “Friends” cut her hair, salons across the country reported requests for the shaggy, highlighted, layered look known as “the Rachel.” This is the power of persuasion that NBC hopes to tap.

But will it work? Maybe, but maybe not. Carrie Bradshaw wasn’t just about cupcakes; she also dazzled us with wildly expensive dresses and shoes, had a body fat percentage on par with my hat size, and strolled breezily through a daily life in NYC. Last time I checked, many of my female friends still shop at The Limited and live in the Midwest. They seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. (After more than 50 years on the planet, I know better than to say anything about the weight of women I actually know.)

In other words, there’s a big difference between a $2.75 cupcake or a new hairstyle and a behavioral makeover. Now, go get a buzz cut and do some science.

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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