Last night Microsoft spent what must have been a healthy chunk of the rumored $1 billion marketing budget for its Windows 8 Surface tablets with one of the most comprehensive product placements ever seen in a TV sit-com.
The tablet was actually written into the script of ABC’s "Suburgatory" as the love interest for the lead character, Tessa, who at one point refers to the device as "sexy" and "the man in my life."
SEE IT: Surface on Suburgatory slideshow
FIRST LOOK: Windows 8 Surface RT
While the tablet with a blue touch cover appears in dozens of shots, it is never referred to as a Surface tablet. In one scene, though, its Windows 8 logo is clearly shown on the device’s kickstand.
In another scene the main character removes the keyboard/cover to use it as a tablet with an e-reader client. Tessa is shown leaping into bed with the tablet after shedding herself of her annoying girlfriend, and later holds the product up and recites some of its specs, including proudly noting its "really sizeable hard drive."
In the episode, the tablet comes between Tessa and her best friend Lisa, but in the end Tessa apologizes for allowing her head to be turned by the machine. Lisa is understanding. “I’m really happy for you guys," she says. "You look really cute together."
The bizarre plot also includes an attempt to mend fences between Tessa and Lisa by having them share a smoked fish. In the end the girls’ friendship endures and the tablet isn’t seen again.
In addition to hijacking the plot of the episode, Microsoft bought spots for two showings of a Surface ad and a commercial for Windows Phone.
The official press release from ABC about the episode somehow manages to omit any mention of the extensively depicted relationship between Tessa and the tablet.
As of this posting, no word back from Microsoft or ABC on what this effort cost and whether there are similar product placements in the offing.
The whole package, while unsubtle and clumsy, does fulfill Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s promise last month about supporting all aspects of Windows 8 with advertising dollars. “You will not be able to go to a magazine, to the Internet or turn on the television set without seeing our ads frequently,” he promised. He just never said we’d be seeing the ads as part of the programming.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
More on Microsoft