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FTC and product placement: No label required

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Has the FTC (a.k.a., depending on your POV, the Federal Trade Commission or the Feds Tuck it to Citizens again) stiff-armed attempts to identify and label product placement in programming?

Commercial Alert, an advocacy organization in Portland, Ore., asked the FTC “to require that placements be prominently identified with a superimposed message like ‘advertisement’ as they occur during programming.” (See how it works.)

That means Commercial Alert wants some goofy little arrow pointing at a Coke can in a movie, shouting, “It’s an ad! It’s an ad!” Well, we could do without that annoyance and intrusion on artistic license, can’t we?

Says Businessweek’s David Kiley: “Product integration into TV shows, video games and even magazines is taking off. More and more advertising is going to be woven into the shows we watch, the games we play and the magazines we read. Why? Because advertisers have spent so many years hurling static, uninteresting or obnoxious ads at us, we have driven demand for technology that enables us to skip the ads. Advertisers don’t like that, especially when they are paying big bucks for the time and space.” (Read more.) AdAge.com notes that marketers are pressing for print magazine product placements in editorial content.

Product placement is fundamentally a practice of deceit. Why is that particular product in that particular movie or TV show at that particular time? Or that magazine? Or that web zine? By chance? Or by paid-for intent?

The FTC admitted that “there may be instances in which the line between advertising and programming may be blurred.” Why should we put up with a blurred line?

When will marketers eventually pressure newspapers for product placement in editorial content? That’s a significant concern.

Note, too, that product placement has become a significant funding source for programming of all kinds, especially films. If certain products fund films, does creativity get stifled in the product placer’s desire to have an appropriate “buying mood”?

The FTC’s mission: “In general, the Commission’s efforts are directed toward stopping actions that threaten consumers’ opportunities to exercise informed choice.”

Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like the agency that increased the likelihood of less informed choice by rejecting Commercial Appeal’s petition.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

February 12, 2005 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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