Posted by: lmbshepard | October 5, 2011

Product placement as programming

Today Morning Edition ran a story on product placement that I found interesting. The story features a show on the Food Network called “From the Kitchen of…” which is a paid advertising partnership between the Food Network and the companies featured. What I found intriguing and disturbing all at the same time is that 1/3 of the program’s viewers believe they are watching regular program instead of a paid advertisement.

It really got me thinking about product and brand placement in television shows I watch. In addition to the news I generally watch while working out in the morning I usually watch a DVR’d episode of The Rachel Zoe Project. This show follows the trials and tribulations of a high-end stylist (not my finest hour of television viewing but it makes me happy). High-end brands are part and parcel of this program and I didn’t think much about product placement because it is her job as a stylist to work with couture houses so of course she is talking about brands like Chanel, Gucci, Valentino, Tom Ford, etc. Of course this is still product placement. There is also a considerable personal brand placement in this program (Zoe herself and the celebrities and designers she works with). While most of the brands may not be accessible to the average person we still desire the brand and maybe that translates into the purchase items than are on the lower end of their product line like a Chanel bag or lipstick instead of a custom made couture gown. I wonder about this sort of aspirational product placement and programing as advertisement. I think found my paper topic.


  1. Product placement is a huge issue in the production and broadcast community. Programs are required to disclose if they’ve been paid a fee to feature a product. This in rooted in the FCC’s rules about “Sponsorship identification.” The rule is based on the idea that viewers should know who is paying for every message. Look at the end credits of a show and see if there’s a list that says ‘Promotional consideration (or a fee) has been paid by (the name of the sponsor.) If this gets overlooked the channel can be open to getting fined. Program length commercials; the kitchen gadget demo shows, cosmetics, exercise tapes, they all must have a disclaimer off the top of “This is a paid program.” This also gets very interesting during the political season because the lower third sponsor ID must clearly show who actually paid for the spot. In a super-PAC world this can require a lot of digging to uncover who’s really behind the ad.

    There’s a whole separate set of FCC regulations regarding product placement in children’s programs too. The FCC has no sense of humor about violations there. Stations get fines of tens of thousands of dollars for violating those rules whihc include a limit on how many minutes of commercials can even be inside a kids show if it’s targeted to 12 and under.

    One trend that’s happening is that advertisers are increasingly trying to get inside local news content; basically asking for a story to be done on their product to showcase it in the news! There actually was a station who did this (not in Portland thankfully). The sales manager went out and sold a package to put client’s products in the news! It raises ethical questions as well as the violation of sponsorship identification.

    My prediction: look for more shows that appear to be a well produced program with interesting material…but it’s really a long form commercial. Always look in the credits.

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