Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations product placement: “I was—and remain—angry”

No Reservations star and occasional Top Chef judge Anthony Bourdain has written an essay about his anger over product placement that prompted a Twitter rant that, among other things, made references to semen and blood on Cadillac cars. While he makes a compelling argument about product placement, he also admits that he received the BMW he now drives as a result of in-show promotion.

Last week, Travel Channel aired the final episode of his series, which had been extended using old footage packaged into new episodes following his announcement he was going to CNN for a new but similar series. The network also cut a Cadillac commercial that appeared as though Anthony Bourdain was driving—and endorsing—a car.

On Tumblr, Bourdain writes that it was “an inglorious way to go out—after 8 seasons of television programs of which I—and all the people who worked on them—are very proud,” and he says he misses people at Travel Channel who “understood that keeping faith with our fans in the long run meant something more than short term profit.”

Bourdain’s angry response on Twitter targeted Cadillac, but he writes now, “I apologize to the guys on the production line at Cadillac, for finding the thing YOU make, and I have no doubt, are very proud of, in the middle of a rancorous disagreement.” In the essay, he discusses product placement he actually did endorse:

“I took money from a credit card company once. Never to be repeated. And I drove a BMW once—for which I got the car that I drive today. That’s it. Any other brand—of beer, cars, whatever—that you saw me use on the show—I used because that was what I liked and thought appropriate or fun for the circumstances or setting at hand—or simply because they were what was available.”

The credit card product placement didn’t go over well, he writes: “The backlash was considerable and angry. People felt betrayed. As a result, I became even more careful and even more reluctant to do them.” Bourdain adds that in his contract with the network, he had “very specific language” about “I would not use or mention any products in my show and my name and image would not be used in connection with any products in return for anything of value or any other consideration without my specific agreement.”

Travel Channel responded with a non-response statement to THR that said “his decision to make further remarks on this matter in the public domain is unfortunate.” Yes, talking about embarrassing things is unfortunate for the people who do the embarrassing things.

While Bourdain’s initial rant was severely misdirected (at Cadillac), this essay is a reasonable discussion of product integration, and an excellent illustration of how all decisions have consequences, perhaps especially those that place money over all else.

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