End-of-show mentions saying “promotional consideration brought to you by…” may not be enough in the future. The General Accounting Office urged the Federal Communications Commission to change how TV shows disclose product placement, video news releases or political advertising.
This makes sense, in part. If a reality show contestant’s goal is to find a new market plan for say the iPhone, viewers could reasonably assume that some money is going down between the show’s producer, its network, and Apple. Still, if a Ford Fusion is seen and mentioned in a scripted show like USA Network’s “Psych” or “White Collar,” it may not be exactly clear what’s going on.
To the layman, organic branded entertainment integration means inserting products into a storyline so perfectly that viewers most times don’t know they’re there — or don’t know a business deal is attached to that mention or piece of video. So that’s the murky area.
Specifically, this is what the GAO was looking at: “As broadcasters facing budget constraints make greater use of commercially sponsored content, such as commercial products as part of entertainment programs, some members of Congress are concerned that broadcasters are not properly disclosing sponsorship information to the public.”
A related situation where disclosure may be necessary, this time because of viewer privacy concerns: addressable advertising. For example, ESPN has its own typical roster of advertisers to reach its mostly male viewers– such as automotive, car insurance, video game platforms, mobile phones and service, and big theatrical action movies.
But this isn’t an exact science. One day a woman in San Francisco watching ESPN may get messages for cosmetics or for a women’s-targeted health club chain — one of which happens to be in her neighborhood. This would be a stark contrast to ESPN’s traditional marketers.
Marketers might say this could be a good opportunity for both network and customer. But others might say this climbs over the privacy media fence — and perhaps viewers should be informed what’s going on.
Will the FCC consider other advertising disclosures for advanced advertising? Something to consider, for sure.
A media critique by Wayne Friedman
Wayne Friedman is West Coast Editor of MediaPost.