Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When product placement crosses a line...

Katie Smith

We all see it. Some of us notice it. But only a handful of us care to think about its impact. It is product placement and, although most people don’t think twice about what brand name sneaks its way into your life, it is taking over. We can all expect to see products scattered in the scenes of our favorite movies and fashion magazines, but what about the pages of our favorite print sources? Does this type of advertising belong in the editorial content of our top journalistic resources?

According to an article from Ad Week Online, experts think that product placement in print will grow annually at a double-digit pace over the next five years. Advertisers are looking for a larger profit and they are branching away from traditional advertising techniques to obtain it. This can become a problem easily if high ethical standards are not adhered to closely to make sure the reader isn't deceived.

After reading an article in Ethics Newsline it is easy to see the skepticism behind the issue of product placement in general, but how do we know if it crosses a line when we are talking about print sources? The FCC has begun to crack down on product placement and deception in television, but there are no hard and fast rules and consequences when it comes to print.

In an online blog one of the major issues is described as being a ‘violation of guidelines.’ Most publications (or at least the credible ones) require a clear distinction between content and an advertisement, and product placement causes that line to be blurred.

Even though revenues are falling it is never fair to deceive a reader- whether it is deliberate or not. Product placement in print, therefore, should be monitored more closely. Ford, American Express and Lexus are just a few of the companies that are known for getting their products thrown into stories even though many publications are hesitant to admit they have been paid for the content.

Things like advertorials and pictures that are included with stories are harmless IF they are very obviously marked as advertisements, but this is rarely the case. Until some advertisers review their ethical handbooks again we should all be aware that we are targets of product placement as not to be fooled.

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