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September 30, 2014

Unions protest product placement

by Karina Longworth, posted Nov 14th 2005 11:02AM
evalongoria.jpgTwo of Hollywood's biggest labor unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, have banded together to oppose product placement on TV. Here's the thing: you've got your PVR, and you're trying to inhale 6 episodes of Desperate Housewives in one sitting, so, of course, you're skipping the ads. Because advertisers are – surprise! – not stupid, they've started brokering side deals with content creators to essentially insert commercials for their stuff into the scripts. And so, you feel like you're socking it to the man every time you zap through a car commercial, and yet, there's Eva Longoria on Housewives, heaping exuberant praise on Buick cars. The WGA was expected to publicly release a "position paper" in protest this morning; it's most damning line reads, "We are being told to write the lines that sell this merchandise, and to deftly disguise the sale as story. Our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter, but to disguise this as storytelling." Ouch. SAG is mad too – but a statement from their president, Alan Rosenberg, reveals the less-than-altruistic motivations behind all this. "The sharp increase of product placement in film and television too often takes place without any compensation to the very performers that are expected to push those products and more often is done without any consultation with those performers." Money and power – what else could it possibly all be about? 

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tully

Honestly? I think we're seeing the beginning of the end for traditional commercials for broadcast television. I think we're going to see more "sponsored" programs, where a single company buys the time for a single program and then airs it with extended ads before and after the show. I think we're going to see more ad placement that will become more overt. I think that TiVo and other service providers that offer DVR systems will get in on the act and have their systems download ads for products featured on their shows. I think you'll even start to see "ad bugs" that will temp. replace the ID bugs in the corner of the screen. Sort of a "like Eva's suit? Get it at the GAP.com. But this is just the beginning. We're getting into a downloading phase where ads will be delivered in aggressive manners along with your show. You'll be directed or even forced to sit through some ads before you actually get to your download. I think this is a little farther down the line, but it's foreseeable at this point. I'd not be surprised to see enhanced program "layers" in the future as digital takes over. As you watch a show, you can tune to the "shopper channel" for it while you watch. It does not stop or interrupt the show, but offers ad overlays on *everything* on the screen. Couple this with an Amazon account and a digital cable feed, and you can have one-click shopping from the screen as you watch the show. The ultimate in impulse buying.

November 15 2005 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Evadne

Personally, I prefer it when a character is drinking a can of Coke instead of a can of Generic Cola. I agree with LC, though; product placement doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't interfere with the show. If it's to the point that actors feel like they're being called upon to actually pitch a product, or writers are required to accomodate an ad pitch on the script, that's a problem. The SAG statement seems to have hit a wrong note--by mentioning the compensation issue, they have obscured a point that might garner them more sympathy: an actor can choose if they're going to endorse a product for an old-style commercial, but do they have that choice if it's part of the show? That's not to say actors should be able to veto anything in a script, or that people aren't smart enough to figure out the difference between "character" and "actor," but it seems like the line gets really blurred if it's not something demanded by plot or character development.

November 14 2005 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LC

I can certainly see the artists and unions point on this. As a viewer I can see the advantages of it. To me the perfect way to make everyone happy except possibly the writers is to keep an hour of programming at exactly and hour, eliminate all commercial breaks. Place the products, but not to the degree where the actors are pitching it. Basically have the character drink from a can of coke, but not actually talk about how great it is. Include in show product endorsements in the actors and writers contracts with acceptable compensation. Granted I am mostly looking at this solely as a viewer, but I would love to see a full uninterupted 60 minute episode of Lost and can deal with Hurley finding a Nike shirt in one of the suitcases and wearing it in an episode.

November 14 2005 at 12:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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