Product placement under attack


A coalition of watchdogs is full of people who don’t like when a product is on the sly, and would like the FCC to do something about it – referring to the increasingly popular use of product placement to combat channel-skipping.

According to BusinessWeek, about 50 groups led by Free Press are keeping track of product placement during the fall prime time season so they can present the FCC with statistics on just how common the technique is becoming.

Placement can be anything from “Americal Idol” judges drinking out of Coca Cola containers to a product or service actually being woven into the script of a show, such as an episode of “Biggest Loser” in which contestants hike from one Subway restaurant to another.

The watchdogs would like to have a flashing red light or some other indicator on screen any time a product is being pitched within a program, an idea which inspires vigorous resistance among programmers and distributors.

A compromise identification technique would be the listing of all advertisers and products appearing within the program’s content during the credits at the end of the program.

So far the new Obama administration FCC has been heavily focused on broadband issues. It also said it recognized that broadcasters were under considerable financial strain at the moment and that it did not want to rashly come in and make matters worse.

RBR-TVBR observation: What, really, is so bad about a character in a program, reality, scripted or whatever, drinking a specific brand of coffee by contract? Sure, list the arrangement in the credits, but don’t make identification requirements onerous – they are making it possible for people to watch the program for free.

They also make it possible for the station to have the wherewithal to stay on the air and provide critical public information in times of emergency – even with most other media are shuttered by failed electricity and downed wires.

We would point out that product placement comes with its own risks. Many people probably share the same sentiments as some of these watchdogs, and do not like having products woven into a script – and they will demonstrate their displeasure by changing the channel.

The same rules apply to commercial spots. If advertisers allocate too much time for commercials, people put the remote to use and take their business elsewhere. So for the same reason programmers make sure commercial spots are kept to a minimum, the use of product placement will be carefully monitored and balanced with the entertainment value of the program as well.