The bottom line
Product placement is on the rise, and it’s not only the advertisers who are noticing. The consumers are taking a stance on this controversial subject as well.
The Writer’s Guild of America is leading the crusade against product placement in the professional world. They have filed a formal complaint with the FCC, citing that product placement violates laws that regulate advertising. They claim that since we don’t allow stealth advertising, that is, advertising without the consumer knowing it is an advertisement, then what right does product placement have to be the exception. WGA feels that whenever product placement appears in a show, some sort of warning signal should be flashed. However, many feel this is taking it a step too far and indeed feel as if this would draw their attention to the product more than normal.
On the consumer front, the website productinvasion.com has taken it up to expose the truth behind product placement. This is run by a writer for reality television who has had enough with being told what products to integrate into the program. She feels a responsibility to bring the not-so-reality of these placements into the minds of the consumers. The main issue many have with their fight against product placement is that it seems to be unjust. For years writers have been told what to write, so why the uproar now? It has to do with money. The producers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars off these product placement deals, and the writers and directors don’t see a penny of that profit. If a settlement could be reached as to how to split such profits, the fuss being made about product placement in the industry would fade significantly.
On the flip side, most people are taking advantage of product placement in the age of TiVo. Customers are becoming more and more likely to buy DV-R’s and televisions with built in commercial skipping technology. With the death of the 30-second spot imminent everyone is looking for a way to make their product seen. And using product placement, some people have gotten very creative. A new trend is to have a product placed within a book, such as Ford has paid British novelist Carole Matthews to write about their Fiesta in a favorable light in her next novel. Music recording studios like Movie Records are now being set up with the specific intention of having the artists signed to their labels placed in movies and television shows. In fact, Pontiac has taken it to an entirely new level: they have consumers watching the streets for former Survivor stars driving Pontiac cars in order to win a prize.
However, product placement will eventually have to be regulated, just as all forms of advertising are. The first, most obvious front of this regulation will probably deal with marketing towards children. There are already bundles of laws in place that regulate advertising to children, since they are easily susceptible to marketing schemes. In the new film Curious George, Universal Pictures has taken the step in placing products in children’s movies. However, the products such as Dole Bananas and the VW Touareg, were not what the children were looking at—the parents were the one’s watching. So even though these things may be placed within a children’s movie, the consumers must have a watchful eye in order to see who is really being targeting.
When it comes down to it, product placement is here to stay. The bottom line is that it works, which is why it’s becoming increasingly popular. There will always be controversy when it comes to any methods of advertising, and this is only the first in a line of controversy to come as advertising is forced to take new forms. But, at the moment, there seem to be no bounds for this growing trend.