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Buzz on Buzz: Now Buy This!

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The next time you go to a movie, don't be surprised if you see a ticker tape--known as a crawl --creeping across the bottom of the screen.  Don't be surprised, that is, if Writers Guild of America has its way. They recently contacted the FCC proposing a crawl that alerts viewers when a product placement ad is in progress. They think the ads, discreetly embedded in the movie's plot, take advantage of unsuspecting viewers and rob script writers of their creative freedom.

One example: the Burger King cheeseburger that Robert Downey famously downed in Ironman. That baby won enormous criticism from parent groups as well, including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. They accused the ad of promoting obesity in kids and recommended it, and others of its kind, be banished forever.

Other groups have called for advisories posted at the beginning and end of the film while watchdog group Consumer Alert petitioned the FCC to require advertisers to disclose all product placement ads on TV. In one YouTube interview, legendary filmmaker David Lynch was asked for his opinion on product placement. His response was a series of expletives I won't repeat here.

Naturally, advertisers disagree. An editorial this spring in Advertising Age claimed that people don't notice or don't mind the labels, logos, packages and mention of brands scattered throughout the screen.  Besides, they argue, how else can advertisers effectively reach a captive consumer? While Americans spend more time watching television than anything besides sleep and work, increasingly few stick around during commercials.

Whether and how the winds shift in the advertising universe is anyone's guess. But one thing's for sure, product placement isn't going away. The blockbuster movie Sex in the City had almost 100 product placement ads and the movie industry has experienced profits well into the billions of dollars. To see what happens next, head for your local movie theater. In between the ads, of course.


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Marketing expert, author, and talk radio host of The Greater Voice Susan F. Benjamin reaches thousands of listeners throughout the world each week. Articles by and about Susan have appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA (more...)

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