Placement of Products

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

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 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.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sponsored Art

I’ve read the statement in many articles defending the use of product placement that “there has never been a separation between art and advertising.” I got to thinking about this statement when some friends brought up William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare wrote many magnificent, timeless plays. However he could not have done so without the assistance and monetary support of his patron, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Shakespeare’s art was affected by the views and wants of his patron. Without his support, there would be no play. Art has always been sponsored.

Another, more contemporary example would be Fox News. Fox is known as a politically conservative station. This stems from the owners of the station being supporters of the Republican Party, and donating to the campaigns of their members. Fox doesn’t want to put anything on air that would damage the reputation of the people they donate their money to. While people might not see the news as art, it is still the producers determining what is going to be on air.

So why make such a fuss about product placement? Maybe because it’s more in-your-face. The self-editing of the news and Shakespeare’s patron were behind the scenes. Shakespeare didn’t write plays specifically about how great the Earl of Southampton was. Fox News tries to present their news in an impartial manner. However, people might have objected a little more if Shakespeare had been paid by Nike to write about how wonderful their sneakers are.

But what it all comes down to is that art, in all forms, has always been sponsored. Whether a brand is being physically displayed on screen or money is exchanging hands off camera, this is not a new phenomenon.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Digitally placed

The newest trend in product placement: digitally inserting your product into the show.

Sounds a little high tech, doesn’t it? But why not? Instead of making sure that the box of Cheeze-Its is positioned correctly in the shot and risk the actors messing up the arrangement, Numb3rs producers can work with their sponsor in post production ( They can digitally situate where the box is going to be placed on the counter, where nothing had been before.

Apparently, people are, as tends to be the trend with any development with product placement, up in arms about this advancement. But I can’t understand why. What’s the difference between having the box actually there in the shot or using a computer to insert it in the shot? It’ll be in the final product no matter what, so what’s the big deal?

The biggest problem comes from the flow of revenue. Just as is the problem with the Writers Guild of America, its not so much about compromising art as it is about the money. The producers are asking writers and directors to jump through hoops to make these products look good, but the only one who sees profit from these products are the producers. The writers and directors can yell about art as much as they want, but when it comes down to it, its money that has the main stage.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Family Guy in the Ice Age

I’m proud of myself. All my blogging about product placement has finally paid off—I am really starting to notice all the placement!

It happened last night, while I was watching the new Family Guy on FOX. The show is known for its random scenes about things that don’t entirely make sense to the plot. Peter Griffin made some side comment about “nuts,” and then it cut to a computer animation scene of a mountain and a squirrel character from Ice Age 2. Peter was then put into the scene talking about acorns.

I was a little confused at first, just because the contrasting styles of animation were so out of place to begin with. Later on I saw a trailer that aired during the show promoting Ice Age 2. Most of all, I was baffled by this placement since I can’t imagine that many people going to see this movie would be watching Family Guy. Ice Age 2 is a family movie for young kids to go to with their parents. Family Guy is highly inappropriate for these children, and they’re the one’s I’d assume Ice Age wants to promote to.

However, this got me to thinking. There are regulations against marketing to children, such as you’re not allowed to advertise Power Rangers merchandise during the airtime of that show. Why is it that you’re allowed to place products in a show and then air commercials for them during the same show?

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I found an article ( claiming that an average of 11% of a show on prime time television is devoted to product placement, according to a study by TNS Media Intelligence. They had no way to measure which mentions of products were paid for, but the overall conclusion is that product placement is rapidly on the rise.

Reading this, I was a little shocked. I watch at least 5 hours of prime time television a week. And I’m talking about the shows known for product placement, such as “24” and “Gilmore Girls” and “American Idol.” If 11% of the content of these shows really is product placement, I’m not seeing it. Once in a while I’ll see an Apple computer or a Coca-Cola bottle, but at least to me, it isn’t affecting the plotline of the shows.

When speaking to my other friends who tend to watch these shows with me, they agreed. One friend said that she only noticed products when she used them. For instance, if she saw a Mac laptop, she’d look closer to see if it was a PowerBook like she uses, and if it wasn’t, she would ignore it and turn her attention back to the plot of the show. However, none of them felt that the placement of brands into these shows made a difference in the grand scheme of things. If Jack Bauer didn’t have his handy Sprint camera phone on 24, he could never have sent to government pictures of those terrorists who were holding the airport hostage. It didn’t interfere with the show, since that would have been part of the plotline to begin with. Instead, it put a brand on the phone, and no one really noticed a difference since all of our phones also have a brand name on them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Musical product placement

Yet another twist on the traditional product placement! We shouldn’t be surprised anymore—all traditional media is being reinvented, so it makes sense that traditional product placement should be as well.

I ran across an article ( that discussed musical product placement. My first thought was that brands were paying artists to mention their product in songs. Indeed, rap artists have already taken to mentioning Escalades and Sean John clothing in their songs, so getting compensation for this wouldn’t be an idea that was too far off the spectrum. However, what I read about was completely different.

A studio called Movie Records has invented this new idea of musical product placement. They will compile a soundtrack for a movie. One song will be chosen as the single to be released to promote that movie. In return, the movie has to incorporate the band or singer into the plotline, or have them be mentioned a few times. If this is impossible, then the plot has to be rearranged so that somehow, the characters end up at a concert of the artist.

Product placement is supposed to have products incorporated, hopefully seamlessly, into the plot. So why should a musical artist be any different? They are all selling an image, a brand—what does it matter if they are real people? It’s taking it to a new level that I think has potential to expand into other areas. Product placement seems to be asking: What can’t we do?!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A new twist

Product placement in every day life…weird, right? But no, its already here.

Last March, Pontiac joined together with the reality show Survivor and created an interesting twist: Pontiac challenged the viewers to look for former Survivor contestants driving their Pontiacs around the country (

Pontiac ran 15 second spots at the end of each episode of Survivor promoting this contest. Each time a contestant was spotted and reported on the website, the person received an entry to the contest to win a Pontiac.

So now we’ve moved onto putting products as advertisements in every day life. It seems a little far fetched, a little strange, doesn’t it? However, I believe that not only is it brilliant, but its not strange at all. First and foremost, people are now actively looking for your brand in their life. They’re searching you out. Secondly, we all wear shirts with brand names stamped on them, we all drive cars with logos on them. We’re walking advertisements to begin with, so why not push people to pay more attention?