John Brawley, Director of Photography on season 2 of The Morning Show, in response to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of product placement in over 74 episodes of Apple TV+ shows, including Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, Defending Jacob, and Trying, insists that “Apple don’t dictate product placements”, maintaining that there’s no product placement whatsoever on The Morning Show. For the record, the WSJ never claimed that Apple pressures anyone to include product shots of its devices in their shows.
Says Brawley: “I worked on the second season of the morning show [sic]. Apple don’t dictate product placements. This kind of journalism [the WSJ story] is a total beat up. They obviously prefer if people are making phone calls they use iPhones or if they use a computer it’s an Apple. A lot of the story involves people using technology like phones and computers. This season deals a little with Covid and there are storyline’s about “zoom” calls. Apple are not the ones making this content. They have a seperate content division who then hires a studio (Media Res) who then partner with a production company (Hello Sunshine) who then makes the show. The props master works with a director to make sure all the props used are appropriate. There’s no one from Apple looking over our shoulders telling us when and how often to use anything. By the way if you watch the Morning Show you’ll also notice there’s a massive amount of Blackmagic product used on camera as well. The entire studio is run on BMD cameras monitors and switches. I asked the props master. It was all bought and paid for. No product placement”. Brawley then takes his argument to even more absurd lengths, declaring that Apple “aren’t forcing anyone to shoot content [Apple TV+ shows] using iPhone [sic], surely a more likely scenario,” a remark so imbecilic it would warrant no further comment if one quarantine episode of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet – hailed by some critics as one of the smartest workplace comedies on television – hadn’t already been shot remotely using dozens of iPhones. Creator and star Rob McElhenney spoke candidly with Vulture about the production’s relationship with Apple:
If you’re making a show for Apple TV+, there’s the added benefit of getting all the Apple tech you want. On a conference call with “the people in Cupertino,” McElhenney said, he suggested that each member of the cast would need three iPhones each to film their scenes. They’d shoot with one phone, then sterilize it and put it in a secure area outside their apartment or home, where it’d be picked up by a courier, brought to an editor, sterilized again, uploaded to Avid editing software, and then sent back to the actor. By cycling through cameras continuously, while also editing the episode together, the work could be done much faster. “I said, ‘If it’s possible to get 40 iPhones and 20 sets of AirPods, could you have them to us by the end of the week?’” McElhenney said. “There was a rep on the phone, and she said she’d already tracked them down, and would have them sent to my house by 5 o’clock.”
There’s no disputing the massive amount of product placements in Apple TV+ shows. It’s been well documented, not only in court records, but also by industry reports, leading business magazines and papers and even blogs dedicated to Apple product placement, one of which is 80 pages long – which is remarkable, since Apple doesn’t pay for product placements in television.
Apple TV+ is having a tough time attracting viewers, with a market share of just 3% in the US, placing it in seventh place on the list of the most popular streaming services. 62% of Apple TV+ subscribers are on free promotional plans, 29% of whom have no intention of resubscribing once the promotional period comes to an and; and only 30% said they plan to renew at the regular $4.99/month price. Forbes, one of the top five financial sites by traffic, has called Apple TV+ DOA. Disney, Netflix and HBO Max have been strengthening their original content offerings, Apple, not so much. Apple’s strategy? To drive hardware sales, incentivizing consumers to purchase its smartphones, tablets, computers or Apple TV set-tops.
CNET writes: “Apple is taking aim at original video because it could be a crucial enticement for people to buy more iPhones and other gadgets. You can’t overstate the importance of the iPhone to Apple. The phone, one of the most popular in the world, still accounts for more than half its sales and was critical to Apple’s march to become the first US company worth $1 trillion.”
Former Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, testifying in federal court, said Apple didn’t even need to do any advertising when releasing a new product, relying instead on two strategies: (1) banking on media buzz and (2) product placement. Schiller added that Apple employees work closely with Hollywood on product placement so its products are used in movies and television shows. With a small subscriber base, little new original content and a low renewal rate, only by using their streaming service as a platform for peddling their merchandise can Apple hope to justify continuing as it’s been doing with Apple TV+.