Since when did Alyssa Milano and Ethan Suplee hawk Klondike Bars?  That's what they did last night on the season finale of NBC's My Name is Earl, and this an example of how contextual advertising is no longer just a fad online.

While Billie (Milano) was eating the ice cream treat Randy (Suplee) asked if he could have one as well.  In order to — as Earl (played by Jason Lee) puts it — torture Randy, Billie had him perform a variety of embarrassing acts to see what he would do for a Klondike Bar, which reminded me of the product's jingle — "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?"  The scene was funny and fit the characters but was explicit product placement.  Since I was watching the show live and thus couldn't use my DVR to skip pesky commercials, I noticed in the next commercial break a Klondike commercial. 

I've noticed this before over the last year or so while watching NBC's Thursday night lineup.  However, the New York Times reports that Turner Entertainment, which is behind the TBS, TNT, and TruTV channels, plans on taking this type of contextual advertising to the next level.

During its upfront presentation to advertisers, the company announced that it will begin to help advertisers specific scenes in shows and movies related to their product and sell them ad space near those scenes.  For instance, when a scene with the infamous Soup Nazi is seen on Seinfeld, Campbell Soup could have buy a commercial in the next break hoping that viewers will have a hankering for soup after the scene.

I can see the logic in this strategy since media can have a profound influence upon us.  However, I'm not sure that contextual advertising will enjoy as much success on TV as it does on the Internet.  The beauty of it online is that if someone searches using the keyword "Klondike" or visits a site about the ice cream treat, that means that they must have a desire to learn about the product and dessert, and presenting a relevant ad can work well. 

However, I don't always desire a treat when I want to watch My Name is Earl.  I'm not saying that coupling an ad for a specific product with a funny scene involving the product or a situation related to it isn't more effective than simply running commercials, but it is harder to determine if someone is in the mood for something by simply watching a certain TV show or movie than searching for a related keyword in a search engine.  I guess this is difference between capitalizing on expressed desire and inducing it.

We'll see how this new approach goes.  I can see the value of this to advertising as more and more people like me use DVRs to avoid commercials.

(I did notice a similar product placement followed by a commercial event in The Office last night as well, but I forgot what the scene and product were.)