I loved MacGyver. Seriously. Loved the guy. This explosives expert slash tree hugger was a major inspiration to me when I was a kid. I mean this guy could solve the most impossible problems using nothing but a stick of gum, some duct tape and a smile. Sure, the A-team could do it too, but they always needed an old abandoned barn and a welding torch. Not Mac. Did you know he once took a lawn chair and a tuning fork, and turned them into a bazooka? Yessiree Bob, MacGyver could combine any two seemingly unrelated objects in a completely logical way, and make them sing. AND he had a gerbil for a haircut and got away with it. His inventions worked every time. Now, what happened to Mac – yes, I can call him Mac – after the show ended in 1992, I really don’t know. But what I do know, is that he did NOT start working as a non-spot advertising planner. 

MacGyver could combine any two seemingly unrelated objects in a completely logical way, and make them sing

Do you know how I know that MacGyver did not start working as a non-spot advertising planner? Because non-spot advertising planners are about as far away from being MacGyver as a human being can possibly get. Here’s why: Non-spot advertising planners are the people responsible for things like product placement and TV-show bumpers saying ‘X-factor was brought to you by Fiat 500′. These people do exactly the opposite of what Mac would have done. They make combinations of brands and TV-shows that just don’t work. Their forced solutions are often illogical, disruptive and – most of the time – plain annoying. But they put them together anyway. After all, a sponsor is a sponsor. For the record: X-factor and Fiat 500 do not combine well. And, no, The Voice Of Holland contestants do not eat Haribo gummy bears all day and neither do their families. Gummy bears do not improve your voice. Gummy bears make you fat. No, Mac would not approve.

The Voice Of Holland contestants do not eat Haribo gummy bears. Gummy bears do not improve your voice. Gummy bears make you fat.

Of course there are exceptions. Of course there are also very sensible people in the non-spot field. They actually think before advising a sponsor to commit their name or product to a TV-show. Let’s call them non-spot ninjas. You don’t see them, but they’re there. They skillfully expose you to all kinds of subliminal branded messages, and they seamlessly integrate branded content with some useful information for your viewing pleasure.

So, don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this to debate the merits of non-spot advertising. The reason I bring up the often blatant misuse of this particular advertising form, is the discussion I had at lunch with one of my brilliant – albeit fairly academic – colleagues. After I had complained about some of the ridiculous matchmaking efforts between sponsors and television content, she laughed at me and told me I didn’t understand anything (which is a great way to get someone’s attention). She has done a great deal of research on the most effective use of non-spot. And here it is: Apparently, the more disruptive, absurd and annoying the match between content and brand, or show and sponsor, the better people remember the brand. So – and I admit am cutting a couple of corners here – the better the match between the brand and the sponsored show, the smaller the impact on the audience.

The more disruptive, absurd and annoying the match between content and brand, the better people remember the brand

If this is true, it scares me. It could mean that media planners will advise their clients to continue down this road of irritating absurdity. And this, in turn, will drive away the audience altogether, speeding up the death of commercial television as we know it. So, I ask myself, what would MacGyver do? Personally, I think he would mummify his TV using only duct tape and whipped cream and throw it off a cliff, to see it explode just in time.

In the mean time, just to make ourselves feel better, maybe we can play a little game. If you can find a nice non-spot blunder, go ahead and post it in your comment below.