Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interesting Blogs

To the left of this post I added a panel with the blogs of my fellow students that I found interesting, so please click through to find out more about the contemporary issues of the media and advertising.

Mark's blog is great. It's about the way the new media influence the lives and productivity of students.

Nika's blog takes guerilla and buzz marketing which are usually associated with humor, innovation and creativity and talks about the dark side.

Ivana devoted her blog to an issue that concerns me very much, and that is manipulation of science and facts in the media. She writes about very interesting articles and case studies.

Tammy's blog discusses the controversy of advertising of demerit goods, and gets into some ethical issues of promoting these products in mainstream media.

Christina wrote a blog about contemporary art and its meaning in today's society. She discussed the ever present question; What does art really mean?

To the people that read this blog and commented:

Thank you for the interesting input, I enjoyed the discussions which allowed me to see what other people think about product placement, and it helped me shape my own opinion even further!


Monday, May 9, 2011

The Final Word

As a part of the Media Literacy Project of our Media & Society class at UNYP I created this blog to educate about the issue of product placement on television. I hope the students of M&S and other readers that come across this blog will enjoy it and share their ideas with me through comments.

Here is a video again from 30 Rock :)

So What Do We Get From This?

The media have always been surrounded by issues and concerns. As the media progress and more people are exposed to them, the more rapidly the concerns grow. It may seem that product placement is a new phenomenon because it is becoming increasingly occurring in movies and television and it gets more media attention and concerns than ever, however we can spot product placement in film since the very beginning of the industry.

The first known instance of product placement appeared in Lumiere Brothers' Washing Day in Switzerland (1896) where a Sunlight Soap was displayed (Dirks, 2010). Another example of an early occurrence of product placement is a Hershey's chocolate bar in the famous Academy Award winning 1927 film, Wings. Although product placement began in the earliest days of cinema, its peak was in the 1990s after an unpaid occurrence of Reese's Pieces in Spielberg's E.T. Extra Terrestrial (1982), when the sales increased dramatically almost instantaneously. Following this success companies began to pay to be placed in movies more than ever. Since the 90s  there have been instances of product placement in many major Hollywood films. Even though product placement is a very old and well established tool to target consumers, there seem to be many concerns raised today about the ethics of using entertainment media as a platform for selling products.

Trying to asses whether using popular media as a platform to sell products and promote brands is a serious issue that should be eliminated is a difficult task. There are positives and negatives within product placement and trying to figure out which is more prominent is not only impossible but also pointless.

In the age of technological advancement we live in it is challenging for companies and advertisers to overcome all the obstacles to get to the consumer. While in the past television was a great medium for advertisements, nowadays it may not be quite so. With TiVo and recorders and other types of technology people can just fast forward through the commercials or just skip them all together. Consequently companies had to figure out a new system of promoting and exposing their merchandise to the public.

Using films and television shows to show products is a natural logical concept. Movies and TV are supposed to resemble real life. they are supposed to be believable, people should be able to identify with them. Of course for a movie to resemble real life it has to contain the same elements. There is no life without any commercial products, everyone is surrounded by them and everyone uses or consumes them. Therefore, putting real products into hands of fictional characters makes sense.

Many people argue, however, that product placement negatively influences media content. Major concerns discussed in this blog include promotion of unhealthy lifestyle including cigarettes and alcohol, reduction of quality of the content of movies, shows etc. or issue of trust between the broadcasters and their audience. Ed Wasserman of Washington and Lee University thinks that with the increase in the commercial aspect of television show, people will increasingly question their overall mission and purpose (2006). While now it may still be believed that the major purpose of fictional media is to entertain or tell a story, in the future, with more product placement people may start to question that and come to think that the prominent goal of television show creates is to sell products.

Essentially there is no solution to this problem and evaluation of the consequences of product placement is pointless. It is important, however, to be aware that we are constantly being targeted as consumers of products, no longer only through advertising but also while watching our favorite TV shows and movies. We should be able to recognize product placement and critically evaluate its effects. We can only hope that product placement will not got as far as to compromise the quality of the media content we consume.


Dirks, T. (2010) Movie History - Product Placement Is Nothing New, Just Ask James Bond in FilmCritic.com retrieved from http://www.filmcritic.com/features/2010/05/product-placement-in-the-movies/

Wasserman, E. (2006) The Ethics of Product Placement. Retrieved from http://journalism.wlu.edu/knight/Lectures/08-03-2006.htm

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Web Pages to See

I went through many web pages that concern themselves with product placement ad here are three that I recommend to check out if you want to know more about this subject.

1.) Product Placement News - On this website you will find everything about product placement. The latest news, interesting product placement on TV, numbers, concerns, articles, pictures.

2.) Brand Spotters - People behind Brand Spotters will spot every product placement in the media. You can search a brand and see in what films or TV shows their products appeared, or search the products and see the media that exposed them and much more.

3.) The Guardian - The Guardian has a online section devoted to advertising and media and a page concerned with product placement. Here you can also see the latest news, product placement instances and so on.

For those who are interested in monitoring the situation of product placement in the UK where the ban on it has just been dropped the OFCOM website gives updated information about the progress of the issue.

The History of Product Placement in Movies

For all of you who are interested in what was the first product placement to be featured in a movie, and how product placement in movies developed I recommend watching this video.

Cigarette Product Placement

Carrie Bradshaw smoking and drinking (Sex and the City)
Another big issue that concerns the public and critics is product placement of cigarettes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention cigarette smoking in movies and television influences the youth to start smoking. They report that the young people who are heavily exposed to on screen smoking are two to three times more likely to start smoking than the kids who are lightly exposed.

Based on the fact that exposure to on screen smoking increases the probability of young people to smoke there have been some initiatives to limit the amount of cigarette product placement. For example movies that include cigarette smoking have to be rated R like movies containing violence or sex.

The Smoke Free Movies campaign began to raise awareness of the issues surrounding portraying smoking in movies in 2001, since then the number of instances of smoking in films and on TV decreased.

To read the full report from CDC click here.

Cigarette product placement is again a double-sided issue. I understand that we should try to prevent young people from starting smoking because it is bad for health. However, certain movies and TV shows need to portray smoking a a part of the story and its authenticity. Forbidding them to portray smoking may have negative influences on the quality of the results. Also forbidding showing or discussing something in the media may be on the boundary of censorship and violation of freedom of expression.

"The Ethics of Product Placement"

While trying to assess the negative aspects of product placement I found this interesting article written by a professor of Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Ed Wasserman. It's a critical assessment of the ethical issues connected with product placement.

Wasserman  divides the product placement issue into three categories:

1. Deceptiveness
2. Expressive integrity
3. Trust

The idea of deception is based on the premise that someone is lying to pursue their agenda. Product placement however, does not do that. Advertisement in its true meaning sometimes does, but product placement does not. Wasserman gives an example of this saying:  The character isn't kidding about enjoying the Diet Coke and isn't falsely driving the BMW." Based on the analysis deception does not seem to be a major problem. According to Wasserman the only deceptiveness issue is that the consumer or viewer is being targeted under false pretenses. In American television there is no alert signaling product placement, thus the viewer usually does not know that they are a subject of selling products. While viewing advertisements we basically trained ourselves to put our shields up in order not to be manipulated by the power of the ads but while watching a show with products being displayed as a natural part of the setting our shields are down. 

On the other hand we learn how to deal with these sort of things continuously, the more we are exposed to products the more we know how to deal with it. Therefore in this sense product placement is not as much of an evil force as it's made up to be. After all, we are intelligent beings and media are an integral part of our lives and we ourselves need to learn how to filter them and consume them.

The second issue Wasserman presents is expressive integrity. According to him the pressure that the creative minds behind films and TV are under lowers their level of creativity and limits them to follow the guidelines made by the people who paid them to expose their merchandise. The Mad Men situation I talked about previously is an clear example of this kind of limitation the TV makers are subjected to. Because of the demanded increase of product placement Matthew Weiner has to compromise the quality of the plot and the whole show. 

Wasserman also presents a counter argument to this from the protagonists of product placement. According to them the fact that characters on TV shows use real products, drink real beverages, order pizza from real restaurants makes the whole plot more believable for the viewers. Viewers can easily identify with the characters if they look more like regular people. "...when we see characters in a supposedly realistic film reaching for a bottle of beer labeled, “Beer,” we disbelieve the authenticity of the scene," Wasserman says. I essentially agree with this, commercial setting of a TV show will much more authentically resemble a commercial world.

The third and most crucial issue Wasserman touches is trust. Essentially he argues that with more product placement on TV the trust level of the viewers is reduced. The viewers no longer know whether the TV shows are made for the purpose of telling a story, entertainment or as an artistic creative outlet or if they are made solely for the purpose of selling products and making money. 

The article is a very interesting analysis of the ethical problems of product placement and I recommend reading it. For all those who are interested to read it here is a link.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

The creator of the very popular and shocking movie Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock decided to create another movie ironically criticizing today's society. The film is known as The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, but officially it is called POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

It is a documentary about branded entertainment, product placement and advertising. The twist is that the entire movie is funded by product placement and advertising. The movie features 15 companies that were willing to cooperate on the project while being exposed to the viewers.

The film was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was released to the theaters April 22nd.

I am very excited to see this movie, I appreciate the sense of humor put into it by Spurlock or even the companies participating.

You can watch the original trailer here:

For more information and reviews visit the IMDb page dedicated to this movie.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TOP 15 Shows in the number of Product Placement

In the age of TiVo and other technological advancements in the media it is often hard for advertisers to break through and get to the viewers. These days people just skip forward through commercial time and enjoy their TV time without constantly being bothered by advertisement. For this reason product placement has been a part of movies forever, but on TV its a fairly new but rapidly growing concept.

At first product placement was increasingly popular in reality TV. Even now reality TV shows are those with the biggest amount of product placement, and at times watching American Idol really feels like watching a bizarre commercial hybrid. But recently the trend of pp sneaked its way into fictional TV shows of all genre including sitcoms, drama and so on.

The top 15 in the number of product placement in 2008 are following:

The Biggest Loser (NBC)
American Idol (FOX)
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
America's Toughest Jobs (NBC)
One Tree Hill (CW)
Deal or No Deal (NBC)
Kitchen Nightmares (FOX)
America's Next Top Model (CW)
Last Comic Standing (NBC)
Hell's Kitchen (FOX)
Big Brother 10 (CBS)
Stylista (CW)
The Apprentice (NBC)
Pussycat Dolls Present (CW)
The Office (NBC)

Data retrieved from Bloomberg Businessweek, to view the article go here.

Product Placement in the UK

As an effort to financially support television broadcasting the UK decided to cancel the ban on product placement affective at the end of February this year.

Following the EU policies the UK decided to allow products to pay for exposure of their merchandise in television shows. However, there are many restrictions on this, for example at the beginning of every program that contains product placement a logo has to appear for 3 seconds in the corner of the screen always at the beginning and the end of the program containing product placement. The logo will also appear when the show returns from commercial breaks.

The logo approved by OFCOM that will appear on the screen to alert product placement funded programs looks like this: 

Retrieved from BBC.

Product placement will not be allowed in children's programming and news programming. Also products that promote unhealthy lifestyle such as products containing too much sugar, salt or tobacco and alcoholic products will not be permitted to be placed on TV. Promotion of merchandise and companies cannot be prominent in the TV shows to an extent when the content and plot would be sacrificed.

Product placement will continue to be banned on BBC.

There are some concerns raised by the Church and the public about this issue. The biggest concern the Church presents is that product placement will distort the trust viewers have in the broadcasters. They are also worried that product placement might potentially reduce the quality of programming and promote unhealthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, with all the restrictions on the product placement policies these potential issues will be reduced to a minimum. The protagonists of product placement think it will be beneficial for financing broadcast television possibly saving it from a crisis and bankruptcy.

To read the full report in the Guardian click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Mad Men Debacle

Waiting for a television show to get through hiatus is very painful for all of us TV enthusiasts and addicts. We think that this dreadful period of excruciating waiting and anticipation cannot be worse. Well, we are wrong. There are two scenarios that can make hiatus even less bearable. The first scenario is when you find out that your favorite show will not be returning at all because it is being canceled for disappointing viewership. And the second is when the studio is negotiating with the producers to reduce the quality of the program while increasing the profit, announcing that the show will not be returning for a while.

Life Cereal product placement in Mad Men
Smirnoff product placement in Mad Men
This is the case of AMC's Mad Men. Mad Men is one of the most critically acclaimed drama series on television and definitely a winner for AMC. Despite the show's success Matthew Weiner, the creator, gets a hard time from the studio, leading to a postponed premiere of the 5th season. According to the New York Times Weiner and AMC are currently negotiating the fate of the show. It is now certain that season 5 will run, but AMC demands 2 minutes to be cut for additional commercial time, more product placements and a reduction in the cast as a budget cutback move. Understandingly Weiner is frustrated with these demands and does not want to change the current set up of this massively successful show, stating that after these manipulations the show will not stay the same.

I fully support Weiner in his decision to stick up for the show, but at the same time I am very upset that Mad Men won't be returning this summer and we will have to wait until 2012.

All we can do now is hope that our favorite characters won't be cut in this money-saving operation.

You can read the report by the New York Times here.


Television is my number one favorite pass time, I watch massive amounts of TV, even in this difficult environment (meaning being so far away from the Mecca of TV, the U.S.), I still manage to watch a lot of TV shows. The more I am exposed to TV that is hugely funded by product placement, the less I know if I love it or hate it. I appreciate the fact that without product placement and advertising, a lot of shows wouldn't have the budget to carry on creating quality programming, but on the other hand product placement becomes obnoxious at times, and I feel that in order to promote products, the plot often suffers some dumbing down.

In this blog I want to examine both sides of product placement, share a couple funny videos, and sort of asses whether product placement is the devil and reduces the quality of TV programming or if it is a great way to fund a TV show and for brands to penetrate the clutter of advertisement and share their products with the world. 

Here's a clip from one of my favorite shows 30 Rock, making a little product placement self-criticism Tina Fey style.