What Difference Does It Make If Product Placement Is Disclosed Or Not?

from the grow-up,-get-over-it dept

After a bunch of consumer groups started complaining, it appears that the FCC is going to start exploring whether or not TV shows need to be a lot more explicit in identifying product placement. This is, frankly, ridiculous. Is anyone actually being harmed by product placement? Plenty of people recognize that products in TV shows are placed there for a reason, and if they feel wrong or don't work with the content in the show, then the show itself will suffer for it. However, if they make a show more realistic or it works fine, then what's the problem? Who, exactly, is being hurt?

The problem is that people still think that content and advertising are different. They're not. All content is advertising in some manner or another. A TV show acts as advertising for the network it's on, for the actors in the show, for the producer of the show and as "endorsers" of the products in its ads. Does that all need to be disclosed as well? If people are upset that there's "too much" advertising, then there's a simple solution: don't spend time with the shows that bombard you with too much advertising. However, if it fits in with the show, then it won't seem like too much, and there's no reason to complain. Either way, there's no reason for the FCC to get involved at all. However, since they are getting involved, will they "disclose" that this grandstanding acts as "advertising" for their own reputations?


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    moore850 (profile), Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Content and advertising are different

    The problem is, content and advertising are actually different. I pay for content from my cable provider, and I expect advertisements to come in a block separate from the content, yielding some reduction in the amount of content but nonetheless leaving me with "uninterrupted" blocks of content. To put product placements within the content is to essentially to increase advertisement time, and thus give me less content for my money.

     

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    DKP, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:45pm

    ads R US

    I would much rather have more product placements than commercial breaks.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Content and advertising are different

    The problem is, content and advertising are actually different. I pay for content from my cable provider, and I expect advertisements to come in a block separate from the content, yielding some reduction in the amount of content but nonetheless leaving me with "uninterrupted" blocks of content.

    There is no contract, explicit or implicit, that says this is the case.

    To put product placements within the content is to essentially to increase advertisement time, and thus give me less content for my money.

    Not if that product placement *is* valuable content as well. And if it isn't valuable and is "less content" for your money, then you have every option of making that known and switching your time to a competitor.

     

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    James, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Content and advertising are different

    You're wrong and just because you EXPECT something doesn't mean they have any obligation to offer you the content in the manner you describe.

    If the inclusion of a product/service/information into a show increases revenue for the provider w/o trampling on the content (Nissan vehicles in Hereoes anyone?), then I'm fine with it.

    I only see this as annoying if its done in a way that completely takes away from the content being watched. Also, this is something that will fix itself... anger enough viewers... guess what? They'll stop watching your crap.

     

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    Hulser, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:05pm

    Legislate political disclosure first

    Think about this in terms of politics. If a company gives money to a politician via some means, legal or otherwise, which is not disclosed to the public, there is a potential for real harm. At best, the decisions of the politician can be called into question and, at worst, it can be proved that the politician's vote or influence was actually purchased by the money. But in either case, the harm is obvious.

    Now back to advertising. Is anyone surprised that television companies take money fron advertisers? Sure, not too many would be suprised to hear that politicians take money from companies, but at least this isn't the stated business model like it is with advertising. That's the principle that all of free-to-air TV is based upon, advertisers give money to TV shows to promote their product. We many not always like the result, but there's nothing nefarious about it.

    There is plenty that I don't like about commercial television, but come on; if you're going to legislate disclosure, start with politics, not TV advertising.

     

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    Accountant, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:13pm

    Stupidity of "Consumer Groups"

    These guys need to get a life. So what if Ford gets money to have the new Mustang in Transformers or GM gets money for the Hummer? Who cares? They look good, add to the story, etc. If the placement is a Ford or Nissan instead of a Toyota how does this affect YOUR valuable time. If your time was valuable you would not be watching the crap that passes for network TV at all. I don't even have a TV in my house... or a cable connection; I have not watched network TV in 10 years and have not missed a damn thing.

     

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    Joe, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Anyone else reminded of Wayne's World where Wayne says he'll never sell out while holding a bag of Doritos?

    I really don't see what the big deal is if a character is drinking a Coke vs non-real brand, or driving a Nissan, whatever. I'm sure exec would make it annoying to the extent of Wayne's World, but in an era when networks are complaining about loss of revenue due to time-shifting and commercial fowarding, this solution actually makes sense.

    Maybe someday it will lead to a world where a half hour program is more than 18-20 minutes long.

     

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    Greg, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    Agreed. What the hell do I care if some actor is drinking a can of [insert brand name of cola or beer here] or uses a particular brand of anything if it's going with the flow of the movie/tv show.

    It's the overlay ads/promos that piss me off. GET OFF MY SCREEN WHILE I'M WATCHING THE SHOW!!! I don't CARE if The Closer is coming on 3 nights from now. I'm watching THIS show NOW, so go away!

     

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    Mogilny, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:26pm

    The problem with product placement...

    What's wrong with disclosure? What so ridiculous about it? In your own argument, is anyone actually being harmed by disclosing product placements?

    Disclosure only hurts those that have something bad to hide. TV content is just the first battle... the next battle is product placement on the big screen.

     

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    Hulser, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:30pm

    Content is the same as advertising? Not so much.

    The problem is that people still think that content and advertising are different. They're not. All content is advertising in some manner or another. A TV show acts as advertising for the network it's on, for the actors in the show, for the producer of the show and as "endorsers" of the products in its ads.

    I think you really have to stretch the logic to support the statement that content and advertising is the same thing. I actually agree with many of the points where this assertion is used as support, but I just don't see the logic of the statement itself. Yes, in one narrowly focused sense of the word, a TV show can "advertise" other things like its creators, actors, or studio. But you can't lose the scare quotes.

    If you stop the average person on the street, show them a clip of a popular TV show -- even one with some product placement -- then ask them "Is this an ad?", almost everyone is going to look at you like you have two heads and say "of course not".

    So, while there may be some truth that content can act as advertisement for other things, it's not enough that you can just make the statement that content is the same as advertising. It's like saying that red and blue are the same thing because they're both on the color spectrum.

     

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    shmengie, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:32pm

    the show goes like this...

    generic sitcom, interior, night.

    dad: jimmy, where have you been? you're 2 hours past curfew!

    jimmy: sorry pop. i swallowed a button and had to vomit it up.

    dad: jimmy...no delicious fanta for you!

    cue laughtrack.

     

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    SomeLittleGuy, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:47pm

    RE: Content is the same as advertising? Not so much

    Hulser, while I agree with you on the point of disclosure not being a big deal if you have nothing to hide, I think the real issue here isn't about rooting out the "nefarious actions of the networks". The fact is that we all know when we see an iPod or any other name brand item, possibly even the clothes that people are wearing in the show, it is probably some form of intentional product plascement. The real issue here lays with the fact that this is an utterly needless use of the government or some sort of regulatory agency. I don't feel that anything is to be truly gained from disclosing product placement.

    It is a waste of time and most likely tax dollars.

     

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    Overcast, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    To me - it sounds like JUST ONE THING at work here.

    Politicians or Bureaucrats who have stock or other interest in a particular company forcing Hollywood to hide 'competitor' products.

    Dick Bush owns 500,000 shares of BlackOil Booze - he sees cool ol' Chuck Norris swigging on a bottle of Old Republic Whiskey in a movie and gets all mad because they are his competition! Get THAT OUT OF THE MOVIE!!!!

    Otherwise, it's quite a stupid waste of taxpayer dollars.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Re: The problem with product placement...

    So many comments that I want to respond to but I'll start here.

    Disclosure is OK as long as it's just something that we don't see as viewers. All business transactions are legally supposed to be recorded for tax purposes so they are being disclosed in some way shape or form. What this article is about is not that but disclosing it to the viewer as it's happening. If it's just a simple disclaimer at the bottom of the screen saying "sponsored by Pepsi" or the actor stopping the show to have a mini commercial, it's not a good thing from our standpoint.

    Look at Joe's example about Wayne's World, that worked because it was a funny show and that part was funny, but imagine if it happened in Law and Order or something else serious.

    @Accountant
    That is a perfect example of good product placement. I want that Camaro (yes, yellow with black stripes).

    @Greg
    That isn't product placement, but it is stupidity and should be removed.

     

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    OldYeller, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    Re: The problem with product placement...

    The problem with requiring disclosure is simple - it's one thing to disclose a deliberate placement, but how is the viewer to distinguish between that and the everyday use of products in films and content? The star wears Nike sneakers (placement), then drives off in a Ford pickup (not a placement). From the viewer's perspective, either could have been placement, and in the end it just doesn't matter as long as we liked the story.

    Forcing placement disclosure just adds overhead to productions without any real benefit.

     

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    SomeLittleGuy, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 2:26pm

    RE: Content is the same as advertising? Not so much

    Hulser, while I agree with you on the point of disclosure not being a big deal if you have nothing to hide, I think the real issue here isn't about rooting out the "nefarious actions of the networks". The fact is that we all know when we see an iPod or any other name brand item, possibly even the clothes that people are wearing in the show, it is probably some form of intentional product plascement. The real issue here lays with the fact that this is an utterly needless use of the government or some sort of regulatory agency. I don't feel that anything is to be truly gained from disclosing product placement.

    It is a waste of time and most likely tax dollars.

     

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    Mogilny, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 2:43pm

    Product placement disclosures ideas...

    I agree that if they had to say "Sponsored by..." every time they placed a product, shows like Heroes would run twice its length.

    What I want to see is this. If the studio/network received money/favors/deals to place a product, they need to release that information publicly. They can have it in their credits or just post it somewhere people like myself would care to check.

    As long as the information is made public, the network/studio would think twice before substituting lines/content/plot with ads.

     

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    Dbog, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 3:38pm

    Product placement is fine by me. What bothers me is when channels blur out products that didn't pay to be there. I'll get annoyed and switch the channel half the time.

     

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    Haywood, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 3:40pm

    Sopranos

    I've been watching all six seasons of the Sopranos lately, and; it has to be one of the most product placed shows of all time. I prefer it that way, the alternative is the actors drinking no name cola, driving debadged Caddys, in short, less real, which would have been more distracting and less flowing. If the product placement off set some of the production costs, more power to them. In fact they should encourage downloading as they get more exposure to the placed product ads.

     

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    dorpass, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Product placement disclosures ideas...

    What I want to see is this. If the studio/network received money/favors/deals to place a product, they need to release that information publicly. They can have it in their credits or just post it somewhere people like myself would care to check.

    As long as the information is made public, the network/studio would think twice before substituting lines/content/plot with ads.


    You are yet to explain why it makes sense whatsoever to do something like that. If product placement hinders the quality of the show, you don't watch it, the show goes down and no more product placement. If it doesn't affect the quality, then who cares.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 4:42pm

    "BEIR"

    Personally, I would appreciate someone actually eating at say McDonald's, or drinking a "Coke" as opposed to the fake props now... It just annoys me... I would rather see more real-world items that fit into the story line than commercials.. right now there is so little actual show to commercial ratio, especially in some reality tv, that casted/directed shows are hard to compete in this. Let alone any need for a post-production budget (sci-fi).

    Not only that, but if the product placement becomes a big enough level of revenue, then maybe there won't be near the fuss wrt "pirating".

     

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    Mogilny, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 5:18pm

    Re: Re: Product placement disclosures ideas...

    Quality is subjective. That's why there are still shows with excessive product placements on the air. Some people can take excessive product placements... i can't.

    BUT, the loss of quality is only one of the problems. Another problem is that product placement is advertisement without a clear endorsement. Sounds stupid, but this can have profound consequences! For example, traditional ads need to provide a disclaimer if they portray a product fictitiously. For example, Toyota had to mention that its trucks can not sustain a 100ft fall from a cliff. However, in a movie/tv show, how products are portrayed is up to the producer and advertiser's imagination. If there is no clear endorsement, who can be held accountable? James Bond?
    Hiro? Iron Man?

    Who cares, you ask? I do, and I think you should too.

     

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    Hulser, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 7:10pm

    Re: RE: Content is the same as advertising? Not so much

    I don't feel that anything is to be truly gained from disclosing product placement.

    Actually, I don't either. Like I said, I agree with many of the points being made by TD about advertising, I just think that the "content is the same as advertising" approach is a bit of a stretch. In fact, if you look at my other post in this thread, I make the point that if you're going to make the effort to legislate any kind of disclosure, it should be for political contributions, not TV ads.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Product placement disclosures ideas...

    You know Mogilny makes a vary valid point. How would false advertising fit into this? If you think your Toyota is going to survive a 100ft fall than you probably deserve the Darwin Award that you're going to get, but what about something less dramatic? Maybe all that should just be added to the credits?

     

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    dorpass, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 9:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Product placement disclosures ideas...

    I am sorry Chronno, but Mogilny just had too much to smoke.

    Since it's a work of fiction, it simply has a disclaimer that it is such and that none of the characters are based on real people, events never happened and all stunts are not to be repeated at home. You are familiar with word "fiction" enough to not need a separate disclaimer that fiction is not reality, right?

    And by the way, no, Toyota does not have to mention that its trucks cannot sustain 100 ft fall from cliff.

     

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    Rekrul, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 10:45pm

    I don't mind real brands being shown and mentioned in movies and shows, as long as the scene wasn't written specifically to show the profuct and/or the dialog doesn't sound like it came out of a commercial.

    If the actors need to get in a truck and it's a Ford, that's fine. If one actor says "We can take my truck" and the other says "We better take my Ford, yours will never make it up that hill", that's ok. On the other hand, if the first actor says "We'll take my ford, it's got xxx amount of horsepower, a leather interior and I got a 5 year warranty with full parts and service, all for only $xxxxxx", that would just piss me off.

     

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    Pat Moore, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 1:59am

    Big, bad, wrong assumption

    Everyone here is assuming that the TV show in question is a sitcom.

    How about if it is a local News show? The Today show? Something that pretends to talk about things that are "true". How about something like this? - a faux newstravel show.

    Assume that the sponsored content will be a disguised news show. In the era of declining budgets for news, corporations are producing video press releases. In VPRs they have people that look like news reporters, complete with the "Hi this is Jennifer, reporting live from Los Angeles" line. "Jennifer" (really an actress) goes on to talk about how XYZ Pharma just had this amazing breakthrough discovery about how to live 5 years more by taking their medication.

    By the way this is what the government did to sell Medicare Part D. It called propganda. It's supposed to be illegal -- but when have laws bother the Bush administration?

    Now how do you feel about disclosure?

     

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    Twinrova, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 4:35am

    Once again, I'm here to challenge your opinion.

    All content is advertising in some manner or another. A TV show acts as advertising for the network it's on...

    First, you're getting technical again. You should have said "All advertising is content in some manner or another." but instead, you try to get people to think content is advertising and that's simply not true.

    Consumers are the ones who put a value on content. Rarely will they ever place a value on an advertisement because they expect it for free.

    Of all your blog posting, you should be the first to realize that these two aren't the same and you should also be smart enough to realize mixing the two is never, ever a good thing without "rules" to define the difference.

    If you still don't believe this, Mike, you need to study DVR habits. This alone will clearly indicate to you the difference between an ad and content as consumers see it.

    Mike: TBS's show-intrusive ad for Ingvall's new show is acceptable because ads and content are the same thing.

    Consumer: WTF!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS %#$* SH*T! SCREW TBS! I'M GOING ELSEWHERE!

    Yep, clearly ads and content are the same thing.

     

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    dorpass, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    Re: Once again, I'm here to challenge your opinion.

    If you still don't believe this, Mike, you need to study DVR habits. This alone will clearly indicate to you the difference between an ad and content as consumers see it.
    Mike: TBS's show-intrusive ad for Ingvall's new show is acceptable because ads and content are the same thing.
    Consumer: WTF!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS %#$* SH*T! SCREW TBS! I'M GOING ELSEWHERE!
    Yep, clearly ads and content are the same thing.


    For the imbeciles among us, here is a definition of word content: something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.

    Twinrova, if I was to follow your logic, if I place no value on your statement above, it is not content. That's pure idiocy. VALUE of content does not define whether or not it is content, it defines how VALUABLE the content is. I know, tough concept.

    And while you are piling on idiocy, saying "Rarely will they ever place a value on an advertisement because they expect it for free" certainly rises straight to the top of the pile of nonsense. Using your logic, FM radio has no value since we all expect it for free. And that's just ONE of many ways that your logic there simply fails.

     

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    mobiGeek, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 9:12am

    Re: Content and advertising are different

    Do you also consider news and entertainment to be two separate things? How about news and fiction?

    If you are watching CNN, don't expect the content (or advertising) to be substantially different from non "news" stations. They may market themselves as different, but there is nothing saying that they are or have to be.

     

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    Pat Moore, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    weeds....

    You guys are getting stuck in the weeds.

    The real question is sponsored content that is deceitful. By deceitful I mean content that looks like investigative journalism but is really nothing more that a 30 second ad.

    And don't think you will be able to tell the difference -- What happens if Tom Brokaw, Chris Matthews, or some other well-known pundit is the "journalist" or interacting with the "journalist" as if this is real "news" rather than a sponsored ad.

    Some things to think about -- A right-wing group produced a "documentary" in 2004 that completely lied about John Kerry.

    There is also the Great Global Warming Swindle swindle. (And no I am not the "Patrick Moore" idiot that appears in the film)

    As someone else mentioned, DVRs show lots of people skipping ads. Currently, ads are easily recognized. The natural reaction is to stop making ads look like ads. The consumer will no longer be able to know when they are looking at an ad, or the objective journalism (if it ever existed).

     

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    Twinrova, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Once again, I'm here to challenge your opinion.

    if I place no value on your statement above, it is not content.
    I didn't say this at all.

    Using your logic, FM radio has no value since we all expect it for free. And that's just ONE of many ways that your logic there simply fails.
    Consumers DO expect FM radio to be free. If we were to pay for our music stations, you can bet the music industry would be vastly different than it is today.

    Some consumers pay for services to remove what makes FM free: advertising.

    There are many people out there migrating from FM to iPods/alternatives such that they're no longer bothered by ads on the radio (which can span as much as 5 minutes). To consumers, ads are not content if they want to remove it from what they see as content.

    Read the last line again. Commercial breaks may be "content" but I don't see people making MP3 compilations of these breaks.

    Without value, content (no matter how it's defined) is worthless.

    And this isn't idiocy when a business is trying to sell content to consumers regardless if the "airtime" is free or not.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jun 26th, 2008 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Once again, I'm here to challenge your opinion.

    Consumers are the ones who put a value on content. Rarely will they ever place a value on an advertisement because they expect it for free.

    You are confusing value and price.

    You value the content you get on TV, but you don't pay for it.

    Of all your blog posting, you should be the first to realize that these two aren't the same and you should also be smart enough to realize mixing the two is never, ever a good thing without "rules" to define the difference.

    You still don't seem to understand what we are saying. There is no difference.

    If you still don't believe this, Mike, you need to study DVR habits. This alone will clearly indicate to you the difference between an ad and content as consumers see it.

    No, what DVR habits show is that people skip BAD CONTENT. They watch plenty of "ads". It's just that the content is so good, they don't even think of them as ads.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jun 26th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Once again, I'm here to challenge your opinion.

    Read the last line again. Commercial breaks may be "content" but I don't see people making MP3 compilations of these breaks.

    You don't if the content is bad. When the content is good, you absolutely do:

    http://sports.aol.com/nfl/superbowlads

     

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    Nasch, Jun 26th, 2008 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Product placement disclosures ideas...

    However, in a movie/tv show, how products are portrayed is up to the producer and advertiser's imagination. If there is no clear endorsement, who can be held accountable?

    Accountable for what?? You're saying somebody drives their Toyota off a cliff after seeing it on a TV show, and somebody other than Captain Idiot should be held accountable for that? Why?

     

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    Wallabeing, Jul 8th, 2008 @ 2:13pm

    This is the FCC's job

    The law says that consumers need to know when they're being advertised to. The FCC has regulations that say so. Product placement gets around this law by integrating products into the plot of a show without any obvious disclosure. And, in many cases, characters in the show make value statements about placed products, which tricks consumers into thinking actors are making objective claims about products, when really they're shilling for a company.

    For example, in Heroes, Hiro says, "The Nissan Versa sure has some nice MPG. Gotta love that Nissan Versa," with no disclosure that Nissan paid for the line. This is, quite simply, circumventing the law.

    Many of you argue that the FCC should have no interest in this issue. However, they definitely should. Product placement, while often benign, is sometimes deceptive and can subliminally effect the purchasing habits of consumers, especially those particularly vulnerable to advertising, like children. The FCC exists for the purpose of regulating what is transmitted over the airwaves, and when deceptive practices occur, it is THEIR job to review such issues and to regulate them. How is it a waste of taxpayer's money for a governmental organization to do its job? You'd want the Food and Drug Administration to regulate what drugs are allowed on the market or what new ingredients are used in food products. Just because product placement doesn't personally bother you does not mean it's not problematic. It also does not mean we should turn off our TVs simply because we don't like product placement. The airwaves are a public resource and I personally don't want them to be taken over by obnoxious and deceptive advertisements.

    Shows are increasingly being filled with product placement, and some television networks are planning shows based around a certain product; essentially making infomercials disguised as TV content. The artistic integrity of television shows greatly decreases as studios force their writers to fit unrelated products into plots. Patric Verrone, the President of the Writer's Guild of America, West states it well:

    "When writers are told we must incorporate a commercial product into the story lines we’ve written, we cease to be creators. We become advertisers ourselves."

    Not that modern television is exactly a bastion of culture and creativity, but product placement has been steadily increasing in recent years and who knows how far it could go.

    I'm not against product placement as long as there is adequate disclosure and as long as the product fits into the plot. I just think that the FCC should do it's job, review its regulations, and adjust them to address this growing trend to preserve what integrity there is left in television.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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