Displaying Brands

Displaying Brands

Product placement, once a mainstay of movies (remember James Bond and his Aston Martin?), is starting to take over the small screen, as well. For example, The Donald orders his Celebrity Apprentice contestants to gin up a marketing campaign for Serta's new Vera Wang mattress. The winning team from Survivor is rewarded with swigs of Mountain Dew (PEP).

As the cost of making TV shows escalates—at a time of declining ad sales—television networks are scouring Madison Avenue for partners that want to give their products a little screen time.

Some shows are product placement bonanzas. When folks at ABC (DIS) sent out crews to build homes on the hit Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, they did it with Sears (SHLD) tools, installed Pella windows, and rolled into the neighborhood in a Ford (F) pickup. Then again, few can top American Idol for over-the-top brand displays. As host Ryan Seacrest implores fans at home to download contestants' songs to their Apple (AAPL) iPods, the judges sip from red Coke (KO) cups as the cameras cue in a music video promoting the latest Ford.

Sometimes it isn't pretty, and no one seems to know if product placements entice folks to head to the stores. But even as ad sales slip, the number of product placements has increased, according to Nielsen, which tracks product placement and its effectiveness. Here are the top 15 broadcast network shows from 2008 with the most occurrences of product placement—and a few examples for each.