virus: Ads creep into TV content

Wade T.Smith (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 09:22:24 -0500

There used to be laws prohibiting product placement, and the now (sadly) defunct NAB code denied them unconditionally, even when there was a main sponsor.

Then again, how many ads are on your feet these days?

FWIW, my reaction is always, _always_, to stop watching _any_ program that includes _any_ product placement of _any_ sort, including improperly masked cereal boxes or thinly veiled parodic allusions- broadcasted stand-up comedy being an exception. I end up not watching much TV these days. I immediately stopped watching 'Babylon 5' after the Zima placement, not that I wasn't watching under duress in the first place, but, that was that....

Ads creep into TV content

By David Bauder, Associated Press, 03/31/99

NEW YORK - TV viewers probably barely noticed the Coca-Cola can on a desk and the Wells Fargo billboard in a recent episode of UPN's drama ''Seven Days.''

The actors certainly didn't notice - because the soda can and billboard weren't even there when the series was filmed.

It was the first prime-time test of a technology that allows advertisers to have products digitally added to a scene, a practice that could blur beyond recognition the line between entertainment and advertising.

The product placements were quietly done as an experiment during one episode two weeks ago to gauge viewer reaction. The response is still being evaluated, UPN spokesman Paul McGuire said.

The technology has been used in sports, to add commercial billboards in the background of baseball games.

Product placement is popular in movies but much less so on television, where there are plenty of opportunities to run full-fledged ads.

Yet it's starting to get harder to tell where the ads end and the show begins.

''There is certainly a sense that the bleeding of the commercials into the programs is getting more extreme than it ever has been,'' said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

Wade T. Smith
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