Product-Placement Clutter & Jon Fine's New Column

Jon Fine’s MediaCentric column made its debut (reg required) in the June 27, 2005, edition of BusinessWeek. The kick-off debate: With ad pages down and showing no sign of recovery–every year this decade magazines have sold fewer total ad pages than they did in 1998, 1999 or 2000–is product-placement in magazines inevitable?Several online news sites, including the New York Post and Forbes.com, ran short-lived experiments with Vibrant Media’s IntelliTXT ad links embedded in their editorial stories. It’s obvious to me that product placement within news will meet reader resistance that is unlike the blase acceptance of ads snuck into movies, sit-coms or reality TV (ChasNote, 8/30/04 post). Fine agrees: “The Contender is not 60 Minutes

, [and] Inside TV is not The New Yorker.” Outside the marketing offices of the big auto and CPG brands, I bet we’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks product placement in news programming is a good idea. Pretty safe terrain for MediaCentric, Column Number One.

But his closing thought, though, is especially interesting. Fine reports that Viacom’s Les Moonves promises growing ubiquity for product placement throughout television programming, CBS and otherwise. “The irony, of course, is that this practice arose so advertisers could break through a cluttered media environment. But mushrooming product placements will soon create lots of clutter on their own.”

Given that consumers are bombarded with thousands of ad impressions every day, what are the odds one more impression–embedded or not–will catch their attention? Forget about sneaky tricks to get your brand in front of unsuspecting consumers; figure out how to engage the willing ones instead.

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