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Family Guy to promote Windows 7: Has product placement gone too far?

In November, a special edition of Family Guy will air with the sole purpose of telling the world how awesome Windows 7 is. We discuss whether this is product placement taken too far

Family Guy's Stewie Griffin has always wanted to control the world. On 8 November on US TV, he's going to get his first real life chance -- Microsoft and Fox have teamed up to exploit the show's popularity to promote Windows 7.

A special edition of Family Guy, along with various other live-action performances from the show's creator Seth MacFarlane and pals, will air with the sole purpose of telling the world how awesome Microsoft's new OS is.

The content of Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show (the current working title) is unclear. But it's essentially going to be 30 minutes of Family Guy-themed content, without any ad breaks, filled with Windows 7 product placement.

An advertising monkey at Microsoft said, "We have simplified the PC with Windows 7, and together with Fox, we're simplifying entertainment." You're having a laugh, right? How complicated do Americans really find the act of sitting down to watch amusing telly?

We'll concede it'll serve the advertiser's goals -- people will watch it -- and if Seth MacFarlane's behind the creation, it'll probably be hilarious. Though it's not the first time Microsoft has attempted something like this. For the launch of Windows 95 it paid Friends stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry to appear in a 30-minute programme in which Perry educates Aniston about the advantages of Windows.

No screening in the UK?

Until recently, any kind of product placement was a no-go zone on any UK TV. Soon that could be a thing of the past. But Family Guy airs on the BBC -- which takes a dim view of this sort of thing -- so we probably won't be getting to see it.

Not legally, at least. As soon as the show airs in the US, P2P networks such as BitTorrent will certainly be flooded with perfect copies of the show for free download -- all free, bonus, global advertising for Microsoft.

We just hope the parodic nature of Family Guy isn't quashed by Microsoft's army of ad people -- some self-parody would go down a treat with Microsoft fans and detractors alike. But product displacement has always been a contentious issue when global firms agree to have their products featured on TV and in films.

For example, in the outstanding flick Slumdog Millionaire, Mercedes-Benz was more than happy to have its cars appear in upmarket areas, and when driven by wealthy Americans. But it refused to have them seen in a Bombay slum. The film's creative team had to digitally remove the Mercedes-Benz logos from the cars when they were seen in these poor, poverty-stricken areas.

So we hand the canvas of opinion over to you. Is this marketing genius, or a regrettable act of selling out on the part of MacFarlane? The comments are open.