FCC Seeks More Disclosure Around Product Placement Ads
By Tom Ryan
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week voted unanimously to consider stricter rules for letting viewers know when advertisers have paid for products to appear within television programming.
Currently, disclosures are typically done during the credits at the end of television shows, which fly by viewers in small script. The FCC plans to study whether sponsorship notices should be written in bigger print and displayed for a longer time. This includes possibly adopting rules similar to those for political ads, which require sponsorship messages to be in a print at least four percent the height of a screen and displayed for at least four seconds.
The government agency is also considering whether the rule should be modified to include real time disclosure, and whether product placement is even appropriate in children’s programming. It’s also reviewing product placement rules for radio.
The possible rule change comes as more consumers use digital video recorders to skip commercials, and advertisers have turned to other techniques such as product placement to promote their products and services. These include not only using products as props (e.g., a bag of Doritos sitting on a coffee table), but also having products integrated, or “embedded”, into plot lines. Last year, Nielsen found that the number of placement occurrences in prime time broadcast network programming grew 13 percent.
“As these techniques become increasingly prevalent, there is a growing concern that our sponsorship identification rules might fall short of their ultimate goal: to ensure that the public is able to identify both the commercial nature of any programming, as well as its source,” said Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, in a statement. “I believe it is important for consumers to know when someone is trying to sell them something.”
Among the top 10 broadcast television shows, advertisers paid for 26,000
product placements in 2007, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
says. Among cable programs, the number was 160,000 placements last year.
“When the boundaries of content and advertising are eroded, it makes children, in particular, more vulnerable to things like junk food — Coca-Cola and Oreos — when we are faced with an epidemic of childhood obesity,” Josh Golin, a spokesman for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told the Washington Post.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said rules need to be updated so that consumers realize when they are getting pitched, particularly during children’s shows.
“It’s like the old subliminal advertising, which people find offensive,” Mr. Adelstein said.
Discussion question: Do you think there needs to be more disclosure regarding product placement in television ads? If so, how do you propose better disclosure could it achieved without significantly disrupting the entertainment product?
- Product Placement on TV Targeted – The Washington Post
- Statement Of Chairman Kevin J. Martin – Federal Communications Commission
- FCC Seeks Comment
on Sponsorship Identification Rules and Embedded Advertising Techniques – Federal
- CCFC Responds to FCC Procedure on Product Integration – Commercial Free Childhood