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Jim and Pam’s credit card troubles bring the laughs

Matt Schulz

Whether you bought a bucket of cake or a honeymoon trip to Puerto Rico, credit card companies are watching what you spend. This isn’t any covert action, however. It’s becoming standard practice, and it’s even made its way into prime time TV comedy — not as ads, but plot points.

The Office
The setup:
Jim and Pam just got married and are honeymooning in Puerto Rico. While Jim’s gone, Kevin from accounting has taken up residence in his office. While Kevin’s in Jim’s office, Capital One’s ID Theft department calls to inquire about unusual activity — and hilarity ensues. (The fun begins 9 minutes and 40 seconds in to the below episode.)

Parks and Recreation
The setup:
As the show opens, an unnamed credit card company calls Leslie (the well-meaning but enthusiastically clueless small-town parks and rec official played by Amy Poehler) about, again, some unusual activity on her card. She’s on speaker phone, her cocky and wise-cracking colleague Tom is listening, and the card rep rattles off a series of purchases — including a bucket of cake — that leaves Leslie blushing.

While the Parks and Rec clip is just a bit of fun, the scene from The Office is clearly a piece of marketing from Capital One. It’s called “product placement” — when a company pays an artist to strategically feature the company’s product in their work — and it’s nothing new. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David turned it into an art form, memorably weaving Junior Mints, Snapple, Twix and countless other products into the plot of various “Seinfeld” episodes. Now hip-hop artists are even getting paid to name-drop companies in their songs and are making a ton of money in the process. In short, it’s everywhere, but it usually doesn’t involve credit cards. However, with the industry desperately seeking both positive vibes and profit, things are changing for the funnier — and I’m guessing we’ll see more of this.

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