AMC encountered a major problem when they launched their soon to be hit TV series The Walking Dead. A significant part of the cable network’s revenues come from aggressively selling product placements, the practice where producers of movies or television shows are paid to ‘place’ products prominently within the show. With millions of loyal viewers glued to shows like Mad Men, AMC is able to cash in by putting brands like Hershey and Cinzano in front of the camera. Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman developed an episode long addiction to the video game ‘Rage’ because video game producer Id Software paid AMC to make it happen.
The problem AMC had with The Walking Dead was that the show is set in a post apocalyptic world where most products and services are no longer readily available. This didn’t stop AMC from considering shoehorning big brands into the story line. The network reportedly discussed the idea of filming a sequence in an abandoned Pizza Hut location with owners of the popular Pizza franchise. “.. We didn’t feel like an on-screen integration was right for us,” said a spokesperson for Pizza Hut at the time.
It was hardly just good fortune for characters of The Walking Dead when in the Season Two Premiere they stumbled upon a Survival Pack of Gerber Gear that would help them battle hungry zombies for episodes to come. According to Mutt Industries, Gerber Gear’s creative agency, the company had struck a deal with the network which put a Gerber DMF folder in lead survivor Rick Grimes’ hands and a smile on AMC accountants’ faces. “The campaign was designed to engage The Walking Dead fans with outdoor and survival gear from Gerber Legendary Blades,” the agency said.
The campaign’s success extended beyond placing Gerber knives in the show. AMC posted Gerber ads on their website and FaceBook page to drive traffic to Gerber, crashing Gerber’s website and attracting over 3,000 new FaceBook followers the day after Gerber’s first appearance on the show. The Walking Dead cameos also inspired Gerber to sell an Apocalypse Kit and feature zombies on packaging of some of their knives sold in mass retailers like Walmart.
Gerber is not the only company to place their knives in a popular TV show. Busse Combat Knife Co. paid to place knives including a Busse Steel Bushwhacker in Dexter, Showtime’s disturbing drama. Busse knives have also been a part of The Walking Dead for several seasons now. We haven’t been able to confirm if Busse is also an AMC client, but the character Daryl Dixon carried a Busse Team Gemini fixed blade in past seasons, and Season Six’s Premiere just saw Deanna’s son Spencer posing with a Busse dagger.
AMC recently debuted its new show ‘Into the Badlands’, which combines blades and martial arts in a violent gun-free battle between feuding Barrons. The show seems like it could be fertile ground for the network to further relationships with knife companies and makers.