Brands and the City
Supercut of every time a brand is mentioned in Sex and the City
When watching Sex and the City's finale, I cried. Although I’m not a die-hard fan of the show, I became emotionally attached to the characters. I couldn't help but wonder: is it ok to feel something in front of a video with so much commercial content? I had cried in front of ads like The Best Job in The World or Dear Sophie, yet I knew that those were actual ads. But after all, was there so much product placement in Sex and the City? Which were the most mentioned brands? A supercut of all the brands mentioned in the series would be a good way to find out, yet I couldn't find one.
Also, I had always found repetition funny - like in the Kids in the Hall’s The Daves I Know. I liked video supercuts like the one with all the "Bitch" words said by Jessie Pinkman in Breaking Bad or Star Wars sorted alphabetically. Still, I wondered what insights were uncovered by those videos. I thought that sorting the brands alphabetically could answer my initial questions about the most mentioned brands.
The whole project took about 60 hours. First, and not to watch the show all over again, I've read all the English subtitles (.srt files, opened with Text Edit). I weeded out all non-brand related talk and ended up with a 1500-entries Excel spreadsheet (brands and timestamps.)
Among the brands, there were plenty of American cultural references I didn't know about. I wondered whether they were brands or not, so I Googled them, established a set of rules and asked American friends. In some tricky cases like Martha Stewart (was she referred to as a person or as a brand ?), I had to rewatch parts of episodes.
I ended up with 839 actual brand names. From there, I took all the episodes into Premiere Pro and cut where timestamps indicated there were brands.
The final Excel spreadsheet is available here. I some cases, I had to make a call. Wine for example: I’ve included Barolo and Beaujolais Nouveau because they are Controlled Designations of Origin (DOCG in Italy, AOC in France), i.e. wines that have to be from a specific place to be granted the right to use a given CDO. Conversely, I didn’t include varietals of wine, such as the Pinot Grigio that Mister Big fancies: there can be Pinot Grigios in Italy, Argentina or Australia.
The video was watched 330k times and got 200 articles in 1 week.
Commentators were surprised that "Manolo Blahnik" was only mentioned 16 times over the six seasons, although it is the brand most often associated with Sex and the City (unlike Vogue, which is the most mentioned brand in the whole series.) It turns out that the shoes are often featured on screen, but not mentioned. This suggests that product placements don't have to be verbal to be effective.
This project does not intend to give a comprehensive picture of the show's product placements: first, a lot of them are non-verbal (e.g. Christian Louboutin is only mentioned one time but one often sees Carrie wearing these shoes). Second, the impact of some occurrences of brand-dropping is reinforced by the context, especially when characters criticize a brand or when they mention slogans (e.g. Aidan saying: “KFC? It's finger lickin' good").
In retrospect, I could have released collaterals such as a detailed sheet with statistics and insights. Media like The Guardian ended-up doing the fact-checking and listed the most quoted brands in my video.