oct 5

But What About Product Placements in TV Shows?

The FTC ruled today that bloggers must disclose any freebies or payments they get for reviewing products. Update: Fines are up to $11,000.


I'm serious about my question. Why are tv product placements different?

posted by Rex at 3:07 PM on October 5, 2009

Well, my off the cuff answer, from a consumer perspective, is that you expect product placement on TV. On the other hand, there's a feeling of trust for bloggers, good ones anyway -- you can, at times, feel like they are talking directly TO YOU, and if they say something is good, it's like a friend told you. Not a legal argument, I know.

posted by Diane47 at 3:31 PM on October 5, 2009

The FTC distinguishes between an "endorsement" of a product's performance, which can be misleading, and "placement" of a product.


posted by Keith at 3:32 PM on October 5, 2009

Jaffee says the current rules already cover the issue. "The FCC right now requires that any product placement be disclosed either at the beginning or the end of the program, and that is certainly sufficient," he says.

"The suggestions that there should be a crawl or pop-up whenever prodcut placement is put forward is not only terribly disruptive of the TV experience," he says, "but it is almost certainly an unconstitutional requirement as more extensive than necessary."

posted by ryan at 3:33 PM on October 5, 2009

Every TV show I watch discloses product placements during the credits, "Promotional consideration provided by: xxx."

posted by Jason DeRusha at 3:35 PM on October 5, 2009

But isn't promotional consideration buried in the closing credits - which are reduced to microfiche and whizzed by as quickly as possible in the tiny window, while a large commercial is shown in the big window?

posted by CRZ at 3:38 PM on October 5, 2009

I have never seen that on Mad Men or 30 Rock or....

posted by Rex at 3:47 PM on October 5, 2009

Interesting. Mad Men doesn't disclose. I've seen the disclosures at the end credits of all ABC shows.

posted by Jason DeRusha at 4:03 PM on October 5, 2009

I don't know if broadcast rules apply to cable, but if "promotional consideration" is provided, it must be disclosed in credits -- that typically role by too fast and too small to see.

posted by Rex Hammock at 4:09 PM on October 5, 2009

Is that really an FCC rule, or just a network rule that's sometimes adhered to?

I'll again say, I'm pretty sure this never happened with 30 Rock.... otherwise, NYMag wouldn't have spent 8,000 words on the mystery of decoding them.

posted by Rex at 4:16 PM on October 5, 2009

Also, I'm pretty sure Fallon or SNL never disclose in the credits either...

posted by Rex at 4:17 PM on October 5, 2009

I'm with Rex re. There's something Fishy Here. Check out the Leno clip and wonder how much of that is based on promotional "consideration."

I think there is a pretty widely adopted standard of disclosure among bloggers, but having it spelled out it the law can't be anything but good. As I recall, many shows have the "promotional consideration provided by" message fairly prominently at the end of the credits. Maybe it is in the law, but there's some sort of loophole through which some shows think they're crawling through, which in which case I'd be all for closing (the loophole).

posted by alesh at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2009

Just a reminder: The blogging disclosure rule is FTC, not FCC. Also, pretty sure FCC rules re: disclosure wouldn't apply to non-broadcast cable networks.

posted by Keith at 4:47 PM on October 5, 2009

Here you go, Rex. I went to Hulu and picked a random 30 Rock episode to find the promotional consideration.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/69626/30-rock-the-ones (skip to 21:07)

Again, keep in mind that surely when originally aired on NBC, these credits were shrunk down to the size of a auto financing disclaimer, crammed into the lower third and whizzed by at the speed of light (although this screen appears to get a few seconds - a longer amount of time compared to most of the rest of the credits) while NBC happily told us what fantastic guest stars were going to be on the upcoming episode of "ER" I had no interest in watching.

posted by CRZ at 6:13 PM on October 5, 2009


posted by Rex at 6:17 PM on October 5, 2009

This seems like a freedom of speech issue. I don't care enough one way or another to advocate for one side of it, but it just sounds like one of those things that would get challenged on 1st Amendment grounds. Joe Anonymous plugs his favorite soap that he got a free sample of in his nowheresville blog where he otherwise documents his daily navel lint levels and he has to follow federal advertising regulations? Dude's just blabbing! Something smells weird about that. What if he writes the very same words in the comments section of an Amazon product page, how about then? I suppose if any blogger can be defined as some kind of mini-broadcaster then you could try to make the case that restrictions would apply. But in addition to the (IMO) questionable legality, it also seems like it would be very difficult to enforce. And I think that would be the case even if all computers and servers and service providers and internet users were located in the USA. Throw in the global mix of those things and even proving whether someone was subject to the questionable and unenforceable law would be its own steep challenge. Thoughts on this, anybody?

posted by Eric at 10:33 AM on October 6, 2009

This morning the BBC was reporting that they would be focusing on the ADVERTISERS, and not so much the bloggers themselves. No sense in trying to police every little emo fart on the internet. Works for me.

posted by ryan at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2009

Bloggers now have stricter disclosure requirements than TV reporters. Today, some PR firm sent food into the newsroom along with a press release. If we happened to cover the story, would we disclose the food? Of course not. Would a blogger have to? Perhaps.

What about restaurant grand openings? If I mention that I went to a new place in my blog, would I have to disclose that it was a free preview grand opening? Probably. If an anchor mentions they went to the same restaurant during the news, would they disclose? Nope.

Not saying it's good or bad. Just saying it's interesting.

Does this cover Tweets too? FB status updates?

posted by Jason DeRusha at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2009

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