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Advertising crossing over into TV shows

By Kendis Gibson
CNN Headline News

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(CNN) -- It was certainly no coincidence that during Jessica Simpson's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, the audience members were all holding the same brand of cellular phone.

Nor was it accidental that shortly after winning the title on the first season of "The Apprentice," Bill Rancic pulled out in a brand new Chrysler Crossfire roadster.

From talk shows to "reality" and even scripted programs, product placement, the weaving of brands and products into TV programs, is increasingly becoming the norm.

Could this mean the end of traditional advertising? Most advertisers don't think that is likely.

"It's not that traditional advertising is not working," said Jimmy Yaffe of Endeavor Advertising. "Let's not forget we've had remote controls the last 30 years. We've always empowered consumers to choose. What's happened is that there are alternative forms of entertainment and leisure."

Product placement gives advertisers an extra promotional edge that commercials do not.

Regarding the same cellular phones popping up at the MTV Video Music Awards, Yaffe said, branded phones as well as other products get more exposure through placement.

"They get to do more than just have their spots up there and get to do more than just up close with the celebrities," he said.

Items that are connected to particular events, celebrities or shows can acquire a certain trendiness that entices consumers to want to purchase them. Advertisers are more than willing to take that kind of gamble.

Product placement has become so prevalent this past television season that Nielsen Media Research for the first time measured how often products and brand names appear on or within shows.

Fox's "American Idol" topped the Nielsen list, with more than 3,300 instances of product placement last season.

But don't expect popular products to show up without much thought. Marketers are very savvy about it.

Yaffe said marketers take into account the "authenticity of storylines of reality shows and television products that embrace consumer products," in effect allowing people to say, "I get that," as opposed to "Get away from me. That ad is so blatant that it bothers me."

Nontraditional advertising through product placement is a trend that will continue, even if getting hit over the head with constant branding in "content shows" further erodes the distinction between "advertising" and "content," and does irritate some viewers.


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