Sunday, June 19, 2005

So What's the Problem, exactly?

An article in Monday's Columbus Dispatch Life section chronicles the rise of "product placement" in so-called "reality" shows such as The Apprentice and American Idol. It is a trend that some "media experts" view with alarm. Here's a quote:
Media experts and consumer advocates, however, have a less-flattering name for the idea — ‘‘stealth advertising," which they even call a possible health hazard....
‘‘Programs like The Apprentice and American Idol deal in dishonest or stealth advertising that sneaks by our critical faculties and plants its message when we’re not paying attention," said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. ‘‘What is American Idol but an infomercial for Coca-Cola? And studies have shown that kids who drink too much cola are at risk of becoming obese."
This left me thininking: "What's the big freakin' deal?" After all, this "trend" is nothing new....Most "reality" shows are based on contests--they're really little more than amped up game shows, and game shows have been doing this type of thing since the inception of the form. Sponsors donate products to be given away as prizes in return for "promotional consideration"....aka advertisements for the products. The most blatant "offender" is The Price Is Right, which is, and has been for more than three decades now, little more than an hour long commercial in which a parade of products are trotted out on stage, then described in loving detail by whomever has taken over for the late Rod Roddy, and finally "bid" on by little old ladies who think Bob Barker is the sexiest man alive.

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