I’ve been watching old episodes of the show Shameless on Netflix, and I can’t help but notice that there’s a whole lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken being consumed in the Gallagher household. It’s common knowledge at this point that this is an example of product placement, although this particular one made me scratch my head a bit. I wouldn’t think that any food brand would want to be associated with a family whose house is as disgusting as the Gallagher’s. Watching Shameless can ruin one’s appetite in a number of ways.
While none of this makes me want to run out and buy a bucket of chicken, it has got me thinking about product placement as part of marketing strategy. Product placement is not a new technique. The Édouard Manet painting “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” is considered an early example of product placement. Bass Brewery had become the first company to register a trademark in the U.K. in 1876, and the bottles were recognizable in the painting which was completed in 1882. 
But the age of digital recording (and the ability to skip commercials) increased the demand for the practice, and streaming services eliminate ‘overt’ advertising completely. Product placement allows brands to get noticed without (necessarily) having to create ads, although it’s not effortless. It involves agencies that specialize in this space, and depending on the product, there are many things to consider: whether the placement makes sense, seems organic to the story, and reaches the right audience.
These are a few companies that are at the forefront of Product Placement
BEN (Branded Entertainment Network) is one of the larger agencies in the industry. Owned by Bill Gates (who knew?), it is one of the first companies to utilize AI to identify, match and facilitate product placement opportunities across film, TV, music videos and social media. 
Ryff, another product placement company, has developed technology that virtually inserts products into video content, can be targeted toward a specific geographic location, a time frame, or even personalized on a per user basis.  (Notice the very subtle inclusion of Taco Bell food that really isn’t even there?)
I suspect we’ll see this channel continue to grow and expand. According to a 2020 study by PQ Media, “the combination of tight media budgets, fewer ad avails in traditional media, and limited releases of new content direct to streaming video has opened up strong potential for sponsors and producers to strike mutually beneficial collaborations across multiple media channels and brand categories going forward.” 
As for the Gallagher family’s conspicuous KFC consumption, there are plenty of fans who obsess about it in various forums, like Reddit. I’m on season 10 right now and I’m not sure how many more seasons there are (I think maybe 11, but the more I try to determine the number, the more I am stumbling on spoilers so I stopped). It remains to be seen whether they’ll continue eating it, or perhaps change over to the healthier grilled options?
Which reminds me, the best-ever KFC product placement has to be on the show Community‘s “Basic Rocket Science” episode, but that’s an entirely different discussion.