Conan O’Brien Pimping In-N-Out Burger

img_1548Monday night was the third time that I have heard a sneaky plug for In-N-Out Burger in only about six episodes that I have watched of the new L.A. area-based “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” When I heard this burger blurt come up in conversation for the first time a couple of weeks ago, with a guest (Tom Hanks, I think) advising Conan on where to find great burgers in L.A., it sounded genuine. When, a few days later, I heard it for the second time in the exact same context with a different guest, I began to have suspicions. Then, on Monday night, my suspicions seem to have been confirmed.

Conan was talking to Cameron Diaz about the differences between New York City and Los Angeles. Conan said he has not been able to find good pizza or bagels in L.A. But, he said, Los Angeles has great hamburgers. I knew what was coming next. Sure enough, Cameron asked Conan if he had a favorite burger in L.A. Conan said something like, “I might get in trouble for this, but those In-N-Out burgers are insane!” And then Cameron agreed, saying something like “I know!”  At this point, the frequency of this hamburger homily, and the identical way in which it keeps being repeated, seems too coincidental to be unplanned.

We live in an age of increasing product placements on television, and we even have entire television programs centered around a product (can you say, The Junior Mint?)  It’s also obvious that talk shows are largely scripted, and revolve around overt commercial plugs.  But even given all that, repeatedly sneaking a patty placement into conversation between a talk show host and his guest, and not identifying it as such, is, in my view, a new low. I expected more integrity than that from Conan.

16 Replies to “Conan O’Brien Pimping In-N-Out Burger”

  1. Maybe I’m not cynical enough, but I think it’s just common banter when you first move to a city to talk about the food options… and In-N-Out is inevitably one of the first things that comes up. I don’t see a marketing conspiracy here.

  2. I’m thinking you’ve either never had an In-N-Out burger or you’re originally an out-of-towner with other burger allegiances. pcloadletter’s got it down: In-N-Out inevitably comes up when talking to someone coming to LA simply because In-N-Out is so good that fans can’t help but talking about it. I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting for the skit about In-N-Out vs. White Castle to show up on Conan. (With In-N-Out inevitably winning).

  3. i knew it! god the CORPORATIONS have sunk so LOW. thank you for blasting this story open, WIDE open. i had my suspicions too, but it wasn’t until i read this expose that my worst fears were realized. i wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Conan is on CHENEY’S payroll. and you are so right about the era we are living in! when i watched the “Junior Mint” episode of Seinfeld 16 years ago at the age of 12 I remember thinking to myself, “what’s next? i bet in in the late 2000’s even Conan Obrien, the guy whose late night show just started this year, will succumb to this vile practice of integrated marketing entertainment, that’s just the era we live in!”

  4. Okay, thus far we have several votes for “you’re being too cynical, it’s just innocent effusiveness,” one vote for “you’re not being cynical enough, of course it’s a deliberate product placement, so what?”, one vote for Dick Cheney, and one vote for the manatee.

    As for the notion that I’m a non-local who doesn’t personally enjoy In-N-Out (and who doesn’t live just down the street from one), my waistline wishes that were true.

  5. You, sir, are why blogs suck.

    You accuse Conan of sinking to “a new low” and you attack his integrity based on … what? Oh, that’s right, a gut feeling that his repeated mentions of In-N-Out “seems to coincidental to be unplanned.”

    I don’t suppose you phoned “The Tonight Show” and inquired? I don’t suppose you called In-N-Out? Nah, easier to just lob baseless accusations. (And more fun, too!)

    Really, I don’t suppose you sat down and thought much at all about what you were writing. Because if you did, you’d realize that (like the above commenters said) In-N-Out is a frequent topic among transplants to L.A. — especially celebrities.

    But even that is eclipsed by the fact that it would make little financial sense for a burger chain located in only a handful of Western states to advertise on a national level.

    In fact, In-N-Out enjoys the kind of cult popularity and word-of-mouth buzz that negates the need for much advertising. A radio jingle here, a billboard there.

    And it’s working for them. Even in this recession, when was the last time you walked into an In-N-Out and found the place dead quiet and empty?

    p.s. – He also talked about In-N-Out when Brian Williams was on his show … back in February … in New York. I guess he set this whole thing up way in advance, eh?

  6. you know if you’re into this there’s a movie called loose change you might like.

    why don’t you do some real reporting and ask in-n-out or conan’s reps if there is any deal? and if they say no, why would they lie about it?

  7. There is a big difference between opinion and unsubstantiated accusations. I’m not questioning your objectivity; I’m questioning your methods. That you do not understand the difference explains a lot.

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