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Product placements manipulate audiences

by Monica Pleuler, staff writer

 

When is enough enough? Not only are we overwhelmed with more than 5,000 ads a day, product placement in movies and on television is growing. Have you ever watched a movie or a television show and felt like you were watching a really long commercial? Product placement in film is called discreet advertisement because you are just being shown, not asked to buy it. However, product placement has been so ubiquitous that consumer protection organizations have proposed stopping the advertisements all together.
 

Today’s consumer is swamped with advertisements everywhere: television, radio, billboards, magazines, buses, newspapers, and the Internet. More and more space is devoted to ads everyday. From people walking down the street wearing signs, to flyers on our cars and in mailboxes, to ads on ATM screens as we take out our cash, we see ads every- where.

In 1982, in the film E.T., the main character was seen eating his favorite candy, Reese’s Pieces. This placement catapulted the tiny peanut butter morsels into mainstream popularity. Another popular product placement was in the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character was seen taking swigs of Dr. Pepper throughout the movie. The success of the placements prompted marketers to increase advertising products in every movie made.

Product placement is popular with producers because of the large compensation they receive. Their reason for accepting product placements is that they can spend more of their budget on hiring a cast of better actors. Some placements are arranged. Other times, the producers put a product in to create a sense of reality. Most of the time there is financial compensation. Other times, the product itself serves as compensation.

There is a significant amount of product placements in movies that are currently in theatres. For instance, 32 companies paid to have their products placed in Meet the Fockers. Some of these brands are Apple, Ford, Orville Redenbacher, Panasonic, Pepperidge Farm, Skippy, Starbucks, Tanqueray, and Tootsie Roll.

Another movie currently featuring brand cameos is Ocean’s Twelve. Topping Meet the Fockers with 41 product placements, Ocean’s Twelve features Amstel, Apple, Bellagio Casino, Bose, Boston Red Sox, Budweiser, Dell, Ford, Grey Goose, Junior Mints, Range Rover, Red Bull, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

In addition to the motion picture industry, television networks are jumping on the product placement bandwagon. Advertising companies are targeting networks like NBC, Time Warner’s WB, and Viacom because their average viewer demographics is 18 to 49.

NBC’s Apprentice prominently places products in the show’s central task. Corporations such as Pepsi and Burger King have both invested heavily in having their products featured. As a result, the Apprentice turns into a glorified commercial for the product in which the task is involved.

Recently, legal issues have arisen concerning the placement of products in movies and television without full disclosure of their intended goal.

Commercial Alert, co-founded by Ralph Nader, which is a public interest organization, has submitted its objections to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission regarding failure to comply with federal sponsorship identification requirements. They claim that television networks are misleading the public by not identifying when they occur. They argue that such disclosure should be conspicuous. A notification should appear on the screen long enough so that viewers are aware of the intended message. Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert said, “Television is becoming an infomercial medium. We have a right to know if we’re being propagandized.”

No matter how you view this issue, be aware that advertisements are being thrown at you from all directions. So whether you are sitting down eating popcorn in a movie theatre, or at home relaxing watching television, you are the target.

 

 

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