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Product Placement Today

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Wan-Ting Chang
Jason Lempieri
Graduate Seminar: Visual Culture Studies
10 May 2011

Product Placement Today

Due to the media spread today, product placement is already everywhere. How can we distinguish from what is an advertisement or what is not? Particularly the media today has spread into so many formats. Sometimes even a topic from the news on TV can be a product placement advertisement. In Taiwan, there is a whole different style of media that is abused by the business world and politics. The press and TV channel usually have their own side for the political party. It is really hard to tell the truth for the public and is disturbing people.

The following will discuss two main issues, how to distinguish product placement and whether or not it is ethical to get paid for doing product placement in blogs without noticing the readers?

I. How to distinguish product placement

First, there is a pattern that usually can be followed to distinguish product placement as an advertisement. For example, showing a closer shot for the product is the most common usage. Furthermore, we can tell from the frequency of the product that was shown on the media. If people do pay attention to what happens around them, they will find out that there are some products that are frequently exposed through the mass media during a particular time, suggesting that it is their campaign period. For example, there was a blog post about a new instant noodle that will be launched to the market. The review from the post seemed very attractive, so it came up the question: Is that true the product is really that good? Then I use Google to search it and found out there are more blog reviews than I thought (Figure 1). By the time we saw these results, we can realize it is a product placement that was put in these articles.


Figure 1

If we add the keyword “blog” into search condition, we can find out there are 98,400 results pop up (Figure 2). This will be a strong evidence to prove it is a product placement.

Figure 2

Recently, Google has launched a new experimental project called “Google +1 Button.” It basically works like the “like” button on Facebook which allow you to press the “+1” button if you find the search result works for you, and Google will store this data on your profile page. Next time when your friend is search for a similar thing, it will help you out. Is this going to be a new format for advertisement, which merchandisers can create a lot of accounts and add their website of products to their +1 accounts? How do we distinguish those accounts that are for business use or personal use?

In addition, there are some people who get paid by wearing some manufacturers’ clothes or get free clothing from them and the influencer wears them around, acting like a living advertisement. Whereas, there are other groups of people who pay these manufacturers for putting their products on them, such as people who pay a lot of money to get a simple Louis Vuitton bag, and carry it around (Figure 3).

Figure 3

that count as one kind of product placement or advertisement for the brand? These people who have brand loyalty can be separated into influencer and influencer-want-to-be, which sounds pretty sarcastic. This leads to the question: how do we see the truth? The answer will be being aware of things around you or be suspicious of everything, or at least do not be brainwashed by the media by listening to only one source of them. Last but not least, always be open-minded to different kinds of things.

II. Is it ethical to get paid for doing product placement in blogs without noticing the readers?

There are several scandals that the bloggers fake their reviews for their contracting companies. For example, a girl blogger faked her cosmetics review that she showed her acne scars had faded after using the product for 4 days, but she actually just Photoshoped it or used a concealer to cover the marks. Netizens (people actively involved in online communities) found out the truth by discovering that those pictures she took were all stamped in the same day by looking the EXIF information (Figure 4 – Figure 6). As we can see in Figure 4 which is shown that it was the first day she used the product, the scar was more obvious. In Figure 6, the scar was almost gone. If we look at the EXIF information, the latest on is actually taken earlier than the other two ones. All these three photos are taken in the same day.


Figure 4


Figure 5


Figure 6

Moreover, the clothes and the makeup she wore were the same in all the photos. Therefore, it is really difficult to find out it is a fake unless it is full of flaws. There is another scandal that the contracting company even provided a shopping checkout list for the blogger to prove that the item he/she writes about is really purchase by him/herself.

These evidences come along with questions: What if blogs posted statements that the review was written for a contracting company? Does it still work as well as a review-like advertisement? These questions can be categorized like this:

If the product placement is

1. Clearly marked as an advertisement –

A. Do readers still buy it?

1). If readers don’t buy it – then it is a failure, otherwise, it is a success.

2. Not clearly marked as an advertisement –

A. If it is distinguished as an advertisement then are audiences still

1) Believing it? or

2) Not believing it?

B. If audiences can’t distinguish it – is that ethical?

To answer the last question, I think it is unethical even if the product placement did not be marked as an advertisement. Because not being marked as an advertisement might cause a lot of issues, such as lawsuits. This will be a cheating to the audience, which is totally not fare to the public. Since it is a cheating, it might work for a while, but it will not work for the long term concern. Therefore, it is better to be marked as an advertisement, because people today are drowning in information and will not have much time to figure out the real truth of it. We even should establish a law for product placement such as São Paulo, a city in Brazil, has lunched a new law in 2007 called “The Clean City” or “Antibillboard” that the government made all the billboards empty (Figure 7) so that the passerby in São Paulo can see the real face of the city.

Figure 7

Last but not least, if we want to passively avoid the product placement advertisement, one is that we can run away from the place that is involved with human beings, such as countryside and nature in the wild, or two, we can simply close our eyes.

Works Cited

Denny, Kalyn. “Product Placement on Blogs, An Ethical Dilemma?” BlogHer. 20 July

2006. Web. 1 Apr. 2011. <http://www.blogher.com/node/7797&gt;.

Google. “Google +1 Button” Web. 1 April 2011.

<http://www.google.com/+1/button/>

Joshi, Pradnya. “Approval by a Blogger May Please a Sponsor – NYTimes.com.” The

New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 12 July 2009. Web. 1 April 2011.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13blog.html&gt;.

Anonymous. “Honey造假/部落客照片的分析.” 無名小站. 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 May

2011. <http://www.wretch.cc/blog/anwong25/33905429&gt;.

Harris, David Evan. “São Paulo: A City Without Ads | Adbusters Culturejammer

Headquarters.” Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters | Journal of the Mental Environment. 03

Aug. 2007. Web. 10 May 2011.

<http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/73/Sao_Paulo_A_City_Without_Ads.html&gt;.

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Written by uartsgr655

May 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

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