Project Runway is Selling Out

TV shows of all genres have the common goal to make money off their shows. For most programs, the show is written with commercial breaks in mind. A more invasive form of advertising which has become more commonplace is product placement and sponsorship. Product placement is the strategic positioning of consumer goods in television shows and some shows go even farther and have the product be the pivotal point in the plot. And if you thought that this was limited to fictional programming think again. Even Reality TV shows can get sponsored.

It’s difficult to miss the obvious Coca-Cola cups on the Judges table of American Idol or the Starbucks cups on this season of The Voice. Reality competitions are a special opportunities for companies to get exposure and celebrity endorsement at the same time. Usually product placement and sponsorships don’t bother me that much, but lately these reality TV show competitions have been saturated with more commercial message than program content. This is especially annoying when it comes to this season’s Project Runway. This long running fashion-focused design competition was one of my favorite reality TV shows and I was excited to see that this season had a new twist of adding a mentoring aspect to it. The revamped show, Project Runway: Under the Gunn, is different than the typical structure of the show but has a TON more sponsors than I have ever seen in any reality show competition.

Even in the past few seasons they featured sponsors. This show has so many sponsors like magazine, makeup, automobile, and fashion accessory companies that I probably can’t name all of them off the top of my head. It annoyed me a little when the challenges the designers faced were focused on certain brands, but this season so far it’s like every single challenge revolved around a movie or some completely random product.

Accessory wall to accompany designs

Accessory wall to accompany designs

Sure I can tolerate Francesca’s providing the accessories or Benefit providing the makeup, but when completely unrelated products suddenly become the emphasis of the show, that’s when I get annoyed and start to get that sellout vibe. It seems that every challenge now is prompted for cross-promotional purposes rather than inciting inspiration for the designers. It’s hard to tell whether or not this is a competition show or the longest Vampire Academy commercial you have ever seen.

Designers get ready for the Lexus challenge

Designers get ready for the Lexus challenge

In the past seasons I’ve even seen ridiculous challenges that promoted Glade scented plugins or the challenge to see who could channel Lexus the best in their design. At this level of advertising overload, it’s impossible to avoid the commercial message because the show is a commercial message. At what point does it become too much?


Turnquist, K. (2014, February 20). TV Tonight: ‘American Idol,’ 2014 Winter Olympics, ‘The Taste,’ ‘Project Runway. Retrieved from

Pritchard, C. (2014, March 01). Retail therapy: Jewelry store proves it’s a gem. Retrieved from

One thought on “Project Runway is Selling Out

  1. Product placement in TV shows like Project Runway is such a weird thing. It’s almost never subtle, but we’re all so used to it that it almost doesn’t faze us anymore. I do wonder if it has any effect on us when it is so blatant.


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