Kate Middleton's sapphire ring spawns imitators cheap and dear

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Nov 23 2010

Ring

Media execs are predicting a glut of TV, online and mobile viewers for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April. It's already turning out to be a boon for the bling industry, though, with knock-offs of her now-famous sapphire engagement ring popping up this past weekend on QVC—for the recession-friendly price of just $39.54! Dubbed the Princess Simulated Sapphire Ring and designed by Kenneth Jay Lane, the QVC copy features a "blue oval gemstone surrounded by small round diamond-looking stones" with a silver band. Well, you can't expect much for that price, and though that hasn't turned off shoppers—within the first hours, some 22,000 people ordered the ring, QVC says. So, look no further, gentlemen, and disregard those Kay Jewelers ads. Fire up the tube and turn your gal into an erstwhile princess. If you have a little more change in your pocket, there are other options. For example, Natural Sapphire Co., a New York business that's been around since the '30s, says it's busy with custom orders to replicate Middleton's 18-carat ring in white gold. Customers are coming from all over the world, the CEO says, for doppelgangers mostly in the $1,000 to $2,500 range. The original appraises at somewhere around half a million dollars, not counting sentimental value. (It belonged to William's mother, Princess Diana.) Since guys can be princes at bargain-basement or top-dollar prices, there's really no excuse for a sweater this year.

Cremation company keen to know what you did with them ashes

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Nov 22 2010

Whatever happened to Grandma's ashes after you brought them home from the crematorium? Are they in a vase on the mantle, where they could get spilled and sucked up in the Hoover? (Does that just happen in slapstick Hollywood comedies?) Or more likely, are they in a closet somewhere because having them on display creeps out the kids? It might not be a hot topic of conversation around the dinner table, but a marketer called Smart Cremation has brought up the rather delicate subject in a YouTube video. The company is asking for details from people all over the country—where did they scatter the ashes, what are the best locations, and possibly, how did they do it without getting chased by a park ranger? The first 25 mourners to post a story—videos, poems and photos encouraged—win a hat or scarf with the Smart logo! So far, TinToy shared this tale: "Spread at Ecola State Park in Oregon, where part of the movie 'Goonies' was filmed." Hat and a scarf for that person, please!

'Star Trek' Starfleet Academy gear guaranteed not to get you laid

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Nov 22 2010

Starfleet225

Unless you're a cast member of The Big Bang Theory, you may not be able to pull off these newly launched items from CBS Consumer Products. See, they all have Starfleet Academy branding, a reference to the training facility made famous in Star Trek. Hoping to wring even more cash out of the money-minting franchise, the CBS division has invented the Starfleet Academy Store and stocked it with products you'd find in a typical (uber-geeky) campus shop. There's a "Home of the Fighting Phoenix" fleece vest, an "I Survived the Kobayashi Maru" coffee mug and a Starfleet Academy titanium spork. Handy stuff, no doubt, but also likely to earn you a beatdown in the quad. In front of that girl you think is cute. But if you're one of those hard-core fans who needs no translation for phrases like "ex astris, scientia" (from the stars, knowledge), then go ahead. I'm just saying—wear the Red Squadron cuff links at your own risk.

Beyoncé's Heat fragrance commercial proving too hot for some

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Nov 18 2010

What could be better than launching a celebrity perfume with a splashy ad campaign just before Christmas? Having that ad banned by the TV standards police. Pop singer/actress Beyoncé Knowles stars in a smokin' hot commercial for her already strong-selling new cologne called Heat. (The spot sizzles, literally, with plumes and everything.) It's set against her version of the sultry standard "Fever." The U.K.'s Ad Standards Authority, whose members have apparently never seen a music video, deemed it too racy for airing during the day, when kids might see it, but OK for after 7:30 p.m. The product is rolling out internationally, and the ads are just seeing the light of day (or not) in some territories. The perfume's marketer, Coty, said the ad is "sexy chic," like its inspiration, and isn't "overtly graphic or explicitly sexual." And she's not nekked, folks, so settle down, Coty said. The bottom line is that the controversy is great free publicity, and Knowles has never looked more gorgeous. Women may want to know how they can get cleavage like that as much as they wonder how the perfume smells, but either way, they're thinking about Heat.

Conan O'Brien's TBS show proving more than friendly to brands

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 17 2010

Conan-chevy

We've now seen the first brand integration into Conan O'Brien's late-night TBS talk show, and if this is any indication of how marketers like AT&T and Microsoft will share the screen with the lanky host, we say bring it. General Motors, one of the flagship sponsors of the new 11 p.m. chat fest, got a cheeky throwback segment Monday to introduce its "20 Pine Tree Air Fresheners in 20 Nights" sweepstakes. The contest gives away 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in which to hang those "mega-fragrant" deodorizers. With help from audience members and/or ringers in the crowd, O'Brien and sidekick Andy Richter did their best Monty Hall (or would it be Carol Merrill?). They chatted about the 10 airbags, Bluetooth capability, MP3 player and other features of the car, which sells for "less than $17,000 MSRP," while admiring the on-set vehicle. O'Brien said it's so well-equipped for its size that it's nicknamed "the Seth Green." Advertisers including Coca-Cola and News Corp. are paying between $30,000 and $40,000 for 30-second spots on the show, according to The New York Times, putting it in league with rates for Leno and Letterman. Those who'll get product placement and the Coco treatment should consider it money well spent.

'Days of Our Lives' product placement is officially out of control

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Nov 16 2010

Cheerios, made with whole grain, will help you study, keep you fit and maybe even patch up a rift between you and that hunky med student. Such is the takeaway from a recent scene on Days of Our Lives, which shows just how aggressive daytime soap operas have gotten with product placement. The brand is as much a star in these scenes as the actors, with lingering shots of the familiar yellow cereal box, talk about its low sugar content and its viability as a late-night snack. It's not just for breakfast anymore, you know! American soaps have been veering into brand-crazy telenovela territory for some time now, with cozy sponsor relationships spawning some fairly blatant brand integration. The shows, which have been hemorrhaging viewers for years, are looking for any way to stay on the air. That advertiser cash is awfully attractive. Soap fans have proven to be a forgiving lot. They notice the placements, of course, but they're willing to put up with them if they seem to have some connection to the story. These three clips from Days of Our Lives, courtesy of The Live Feed, may test their patience. (In addition to Cheerios, the series spreads the love to Chex Mix and Wanchai Ferry frozen Chinese food). See what you think. But remember the context. It's melodrama, not The Wire.

'Playboy' holding Willy-Wonka-esque contest with golden tickets

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Nov 16 2010

Playboy-golden-ticket

There may just be an R-rated Superbad-meets-Willy-Wonka movie in here somewhere. Playboy top dog Hugh Hefner has announced a contest that will give out 10 "golden tickets" to readers of the venerable magazine. Those who root out those pieces of paper, stuffed into newsstand copies around the country, will win a VIP trip to the infamous Playboy Mansion for a Midsummer Night's Dream party next August (which is more like late summer, but let's not nitpick). Should we expect fans to go on massive buying and hoarding sprees, like they did for those Wonka chocolate bars? Hef, who's riding herd over a financially ailing empire, can dream. Playboy.com, which is tracking the sweepstakes, says no one found any tickets over the weekend, but the pub just went on sale Friday. There's still plenty of time for people to paw through their copies and start planning their grotto-centric vacations. Hef has never opened up the Los Angeles manse to readers before, though the stunt will only admit a handful of (potential) riffraff. They'll hardly stand out at all.

What can a damning Roger Ebert quote do for sales of a DVD?

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Nov 15 2010

Duff

Roger Ebert is not a PR specialist, but he sure is skilled at the sound bite. The legendary film critic, as prolific as ever despite catastrophic illnesses, had some choice words recently for The Perfect Man, a Hilary Duff rom-com. "The Perfect Man takes its idiotic plot and uses it as the excuse for scenes of awesome stupidity," he wrote. Realizing how lyrical that sentence was, or else completely missing the point in translation, the movie's Asian distributor picked up the biting comment and put it on the DVD's cover. Movieline thought it would be grand to expand the idea, putting some especially insulting Ebert critiques on other DVDs. Think it'll help rentals if people know Ebert called The Lovely Bones "a deplorable film," or Sex and the City 2 "pretty thin gruel"? The Last Airbender was "an agonizing experience" and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo was "aggressively bad." Kick Ass, a blood-drenched action flick that should've been a box-office hit but somehow fell flat, was labeled "morally reprehensible." Hey, this kind of stuff worked for Gossip Girl. Why not movies, too?

What does Conan O'Brien have to do with the film 'Unstoppable'?

By T.L. Stanley on Fri Nov 12 2010

Conan-unstoppable

What does Conan O'Brien have in common with the combustible, out-of-control train from the Fox action thriller Unstoppable? Not much, I'd say, but the studio and TBS have linked the two anyway in a commercial that's airing this week on O'Brien's new late-night chat show, Conan. "Go from 190 pounds of talk-show host," the ad says in bold type, with no voiceover or dialogue, "to 1,000,000 tons of steel." Get it? Neither do I. If the spot means to say that both are, well, unstoppable, then I could grasp the idea. O'Brien has risen from the ashes of a failed stint on The Tonight Show, and he's more popular than ever. But (no real spoiler here) the train in the movie, opening Friday, actually is stoppable. (That's what our heroes, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, will spend two tense hours doing.) The growing trend of mingling TV-show content and advertising, so that viewers are less likely to fast-forward through the breaks, is working in some cases. It's even engaging when it's cleverly done, like the recent zombie-themed Toyota Corolla commercial that aired during AMC's The Walking Dead. But anything that can be copied can be copied poorly. Sorry, Coco, I'm all for seeing you plastered across every available piece of TBS media, but stop it with the Unstoppable crossovers.

Adam Sandler bestows Maseratis on lucky 'Grown Ups' co-stars

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Nov 11 2010

Grown-ups

Elvis used to hand out brand-new Cadillacs to people who came to his shows, and Oprah has been known to shower her audiences with Pontiacs. Looks like Adam Sandler is horning in on the act, though on a slightly smaller scale. The comedian doled out $200,000 Maseratis to his co-stars from Grown Ups, a summer flick that pulled in $270 million at the box office worldwide. It's being released on DVD next week and could wind up in a lot of Christmas stockings. (Is that instead of the lump of coal, or in addition to it?) Sandler's largesse might come from the fact that he had a lot of skin in this game—he's one of the credited writers on the comedy about high school buddies reuniting, and he was also one of the producers. Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Rob Schneider were on the receiving end of the pre-holiday gift of the ultra-luxe Italian sports car. They're probably all hoping for a sequel.


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