Stealth Advertising

Just when I thought I had enough reasons to hate the entertainment industry they come up with an idea like this.

From a recent Reuters article on

A breakthrough in television advertising debuted without fanfare last spring as a brand-name box of crackers appeared on the CBS sitcom ”Yes, Dear” for about 20 seconds, seen but hardly noticed by millions of viewers.

Unbeknownst to them, the image of Kellogg’s Club Crackers had been digitally painted onto the top of a coffee table after the scene was filmed, launching the latest advance in a marketing practice known in the industry as product placement but derided by critics as ”stealth advertising.”

This is worse than the advertisements which now seem to frequent the bottom third of the screen as you’re trying to watch your favorite program. At least when Shrek started popping his ugly head into the frame you knew you were seeing an advertisement!

Now when you see a box of crackers, pop-tarts, a box of trojans, a bottle of Coke, or a BMW in a series you’ll never know if it was put there by a careful writer, a skilled set dresser, or just a network advertising department who has no interest in the artistic integrity of the show.

Now I’m not naive enough to think the entertainment industry hasn’t been taking payoffs for putting brand name products in their shows, but at least it was part of the original composition, not an afterthought. There can be some give-and-take between the advertisers and the writers and, while advertising is inevitable, at least there are some checks.

So where does this end? Well, my bitching probably won’t get them to stop placing ads in more and more programming, so I’d like to offer this suggestion for the future of “stealth advertising.”

Advertising in the news. That’s right, the news. Try these on for size…

Would George W. like a cracker? (or should that be “Is George W. like a cracker?”)


How about some great moments in history? Everyone needs crackers…

There were crackers on the moon right?


What’s a war without crackers?


You can go great places with crackers!


And my personal favorite.


Tasteless? Well, yes, but since we’ve already turned anything artistic into a commercial, what’s left? Just the news.

advertising, internet advertising, humor, funny, stealth advertising, george w. bush, bush, news, entertainment

5 thoughts on “Stealth Advertising”

  1. Product placement has been around for a long time; it’s nothing new. The fact that they’re digitally putting them into the shot rather than actually putting the product on the set is probably the only new thing about this. If you can’t tell whether what you’re seeing is set or a genuine product placement, then why get so hot under the collar about it? I guarantee you’ve seen this plenty of times before, but just never noticed it. Case in point, do you remember seeing the axe deodorant billboards in burnout revenge? Definite product placement, intrusive and worth getting worked up about? Not at all. The judges on american idol don’t just happen to all have coke glasses with them every night either. I would actually prefer to have this type of advertisement than shrek popping his head into the screen either covering part of the programming I’m watching, or at the very least squashing it.

  2. Why don’t the advertisers just start writing the series then…

    Traditional product placement has to go through some level of artistic filter to show up on screen. The people (writers, actors, producers, etc.) who work so hard to produce a quality show can choose how to display a product or possibly push back if the product is inappropriate.

    If the advertisement can be put in post-production all these checks are bypassed. The people actually making the show have just lost control over the content.

    Furthermore, if I buy a series on DVD, do I get the series as aired or as filmed?

  3. Do we know for sure that the writers & producers don’t have any say in this? Seems to me if their show is being doctored without their say and is ruining the show, then they would protest/strike until a compromise was made. A show can’t go anywhere if the writer and/or producer aren’t doing their job.

    What difference does it make which version you get on DVD if you can’t tell whether something is a prop/traditional product placment/digital product placement? If it looks real and part of the set, who cares whether a company paid to have it placed there?

  4. I don’t know that for sure, but the industry being what it is the writers and producers would have a tough time walking away from a series that pays.

    When I watch television I pay for the content through ads. I am willing to accept that, but the quality (and quantity) of the content has gone down and the price (in ads) has gone up over the past 20 years (even longer, but I can only speak from personal experience about the past 20 years.)

    When I purchase a DVD I pay for the content with cash. I am purchasing the right to view a piece of work in the way the creators intended it to be viewed.

    I wouldn’t accept advertising being superimposed on any other form of art I would care to view or purchase.

  5. the BBC used to have very strict rules about product placement – it’s not allowed. however, this created huge problems when you have comedies and soaps that take place in shops and pubs. also, society has changed drastically in the past decade or so, and wearing a product name is now a fashion statement. creating a fictional world that is supposed to reflect our modern world, but carries no product names is impossible. in some cases, they have gone to the trouble of creating fictional brand names, with labels and corporate logos – but it’s a lot of work, and puts an enormous strain on the budget. the BBC does not get paid to place a product name on the screen – but it has become unavoidable.

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