Friday, January 26, 2018

Here’s an unfortunate product placement for Crock-Pot

Chances are, you’ve got some Newell product of another in your home. I just glanced through their brand inventory and, without going through drawers, cabinets, closets, and hidey-holes, I know I’ve got stuff from Rubbermaid, Calphalon, Sharpie, Paper-Mate, Dymo, X-acto, Parker, First Alert, Coleman, Aero-Bed, and Bicycle.

And they also own Crock-Pot, which last week was a good thing. But after Tuesday night’s episode of This Is Us, well…not so much.

For those who aren’t dedicated followers of This Is Us, it’s a show about the fictional Pearson family. Each episode about the family dramas and traumas does a few different time slices, so we get to see the characters in the now and in multiple thens. Once you get by the quasi-stretching it premise that a white family that just had triplets decides to bring home an abandoned African-American baby when one of their triplets died, the show is to me interesting and pretty engrossing. And although I can’t decide whether the guy who plays Kevin is a bad actor, or a good actor playing a bad actor who’s a colossal jerk at all ages, the cast is superb. It’s hard to not play favorites. I love Randall’s wife Beth, Randall’s bio-father William, teen-age Kate, Toby (adult Kate’s fiancé), and, of course the husband-wife/father-mother team of Jack and Rebecca Pearson.

Viewers have pretty much known from the get-go that Jack Pearson dies when the kids are in high school, and this season we’ve had plenty of foreshadowing on how it’s going to happen. No, the car crash hint was a red herring. We’ve known for a while now that their house burns down with Jack in it.


And on Tuesday night, just before 10 p.m. Eastern, we find that the fire was caused by a faulty Crock-Pot that turned Chez Pearson into the towering inferno.

This is bad luck for Jack, but, hey, he’s a fictional character. And Jack’s death is, of course, going to be tough for us fans to handle, but, hey, Jack’s a fictional character and if we managed to survive the death of William…But it’s exceptionally bad luck for Newell, which owns the Crock-Pot brand, especially as it’s coming on the heels of a poor corporate forecast and change in strategy that sent its stock price plummeting. And now this.

The consumer-products giant…says the panic is nothing more than a tempest in a Crock-Pot.

“The safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible,” Newell said in a statement Thursday. “Our Crock-Pot slow cookers are low-current, low-wattage (typically no more than 200 or 300 watts) appliances with self-regulating, heating elements.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Tell that to the millions of American women with a big fat crush on Jack Pearson. I’m guessing that plenty of slightly-used Crock-Pots went out in the trash Wednesday morning. And there’ll be more there after Super Bowl.

For his part, the creator of This Is Us Dan Fogelman has jumped in to support Crock-Pots.

The scene depicted a used appliance that wasn’t meant to reflect on current technology, he said.

“Taking a moment to remind everyone that it was a 20-year-old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch? Let’s not just lump all those lovely hardworking crockpots together,” Fogelman posted on Twitter.

This Is Us prides itself on its authenticity. The clothing, music, what’s on the table, cars, home décor, movies seen, etc. are all pretty reflective of what was around at the times when the show takes place (1970’s – with occasional forays into earlier back stories -  through present day). Real, recognizable products/brands are everywhere.

But it seems kind of mean on the This Is Us team’s part to use a Crock-Pot to kill Jack. (Obviously, Newell didn’t pay for this perverse product placement. If they were doing a product placement on This Is Us, it would have been for First Alert.)

Come on, couldn’t this have been a generic slow cooker that we all knew was a Crock-Pot without coming right out and show-and-telling us? After all, they’re not 100% sticklers for authenticity. On Tuesday night’s episode, scenes taking place in Pittsburgh in February showed trees in full leaf, and family members heading out for the evening without coats on. Ummm, not really. So why didn’t they give Crock-Pot a little break?

The episode – which takes place on Super Bowl Sunday 1998 - in which Jack dies is scheduled for Sunday, February 4th, right after the Super Bowl finishes up.

Swell! One set of football fans – Patriots or Eagles – who are also This Is Us watchers are going to see their team go down in metaphorical flames, only to see Jack Pearson go down in literal (albeit fictional) flames. Or they’re going to have their joyful celebrations after a big win tempered by Jack’s death.

That’ll be quite the evening.

Meanwhile, Newell is taking pains not to alienate fans of “This Is Us.” TV-show enthusiasts can be fiercely loyal.

“We too, are heartbroken by the latest development in Jack’s storyline,” the company said.

I’ll bet they are.

Having worked in B2B technology, there haven’t been many opportunities for me to see products I worked on appear on TV or in the movies. With one exception. I was the product manager for a product called Shark, which provided a near-real-time stock market data feed at a time (30 years back) when that was a rarity. Shark documentation and blowups appeared in the movie Wall Street. The placement occurred before my time, but the movie came out when I was at Wang Labs and managing the product. A near claim to Hollywood fame. (At another company, I managed a product called AutoBJ. Maybe that got placement in a porn film, but I’m unaware of it.)

Anyway, I feel bad for Newell, but they seem to be contributed to their own troubles. They’re pushing a new multi-use Crock-Pot by issuing A New Product Alert. Sorry, but “alert” sounds like a recall of a potentially hazardous product. The type of product that could kill Jack Pearson.


On top of everything else that can go wrong, it looks like the Pearsons’ dog dies in the fire, too.

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