Did House of Cards and an Armored Car Company Just Reinvent Product Placement?

Heather Dunbar is a fake character and the heir to a very real fortune.
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Heather Dunbar is a fake character and the heir to a very real fortune.
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On Monday morning, Manhattan’s “Diamond District,” a two-block plot of jewel shops and trading houses, was thick with armored cars. This was not – in and of itself – unusual. But the Dunbar Armored truck parked on the southern side of 47th street across from a four-wheeled fridge labeled Brinks seemed to shine brighter than the rest. Thanks to House of Cards, the truck was having a Hollywood moment – albeit in the strangest way possible.

It doesn’t spoil any of the show’s castle intrigue to say that one of the most important new characters is Solicitor General Heather Dunbar, who’s major political liability is the fact that she grew up as the heir to the Dunbar Armored fortune. The fact that she is wealthy (because Dunbar is extremely successful) is a point that probably bares repeating and definitely is repeated a lot regardless. Are there any actual trucks full of jewels involved in the show? No. The product, secure transportation, is being placed in Dunbar’s backstory. What having a character with the name of a company gives the screenwriters that, say, having everyone use Windows Phones does not, is leeway to repeat a brand name again and again. The name Dunbar gets used a lot, which is presumably why commuters in Midtown were doing double takes when they spotted pit bull of a red truck growling down the street. 

This all might sound a bit insidious, but we’d argue that it’s not. It’s certainly less distracting than other forms of product placement on the show (cough, Anheuser Busch, cough) and it anchors everything in reality. In fact, we like it so much, we’ve come up with a few more characters we’d like to see on the show.

Name: Juan Monsanto

Backstory: The ambassador from a very rich South American country with an excess of food, Monsanto comes to Washington on a trade mission.

Plotline: During a meeting with Frank Underwood, Monsanto upsets the President by insulting his pears. Underwood invades his country.

Name: Price Waterhouse Cooper

Backstory: A WASP-y senator from Connecticut, Cooper is the owner of Frank Underwood’s favorite polo team.

Plotline: Cooper opposes a bill Underwood is pushing so the President throws him in front of a yacht.

Name: Sean McFidelity

Backstory: An up-and-coming campaign bundler with money to spare, McFidelity grew up poor in Boston but made himself rich by investing responsibly.

Plotline: McFidelity donates lots of money to Frank Underwood’s campaign. In exchange, he gets a minute of solid eye with Claire Underwood. He spontaneously combusts.

Name: Philip “Windows” Phone

Backstory: Called “Windows” because of his large glasses, Phone is the most connected man in Washington, the fixer you go to when you need to get hold of anyone.

Plotline: When Frank needs to reach out to a criminal boss, he calls for Phone, who – of course – has the contacts.