A Paws For Product Placement

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While dogs have “The Dog Whisperer”. their feline counterparts were left woefully neglected on the small screen. Which makes news of a TV show, “Housecat Housecall“, soon to debut on Animal Planet at 8:00 AM Saturday mornings all the more exciting. The program will feature a team of feline behavior experts who will observe a cat’s undesirable acts (climbing the curtains, clawing at the furniture, scratching, etc.) and come up with a solution to help the family cope and visit to help put the plan into practice.
Think “Super Nanny” for cats.
Sponsored by Purina Cat Chow the program is seen by the company as a way to give their products exposure beyond traditional TV commercials. Though there won’t be any hard sell, the line of cat foods will be mentioned or shown occasionally on the program. Though the cats watching aren’t likely to notice, the show offers us yet another variation of product placement — an advertising strategy that puts recognizable products or brands within the plot of your favorite program.
As you might expect, the increase in popularity of this strategy is a result of all those digital recording devices — as more and more of us become comfortable using TiVo, we skip those bothersome, though sometimes marginally entertaining ads altogether. Advertisers, in increasing numbers, are recognizing this and looking for other ways to promote their products.
Want more proof of how widespread the trend has become? Just look at the list of shows — Fox’s “24”, Bravo’s “Top Chef”, NBC’s “30 Rock” and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to see widely different applications of the product placement technique. The number of product placements on TV went up 13% last year, for the top 10 shows, there were 26,000 placements; on cable shows a whopping 160,000 placements. That’s a whole lot of MAC’s and cell phones.

It seems the timing is right for the usually slow to act Federal Communications Commission (FCC)to review rules on how television programmers let you know a product isn’t a prop but a paid-for pitch.
Right now, the FCC rules require the information be disclosed, but it’s done during the final credits, when everyone’s up and out of the room. Even if you’re still sitting there… you’d have to be an Olympic speed reader to catch all those names and titles.

What the new FCC rules propose to do is make the notices appear in bigger print and stay on for a set amount of time. The FCC will also look at rules for products placed in children’s programming and on cable.
In the meantime, watch your favorite shows with a wary eye… and be especially careful about what your young children see. They are least able to distinguish the advertising pitch from the subtle (or not so subtle) use of a cell phone or a candy bar by the hero (or heroine) of their favorite show.

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