We don’t always think about advertising in media as a two way street. But it’s not only the responsibility of media to keep their relationship with advertisers ethical. Advertisers should also be checking themselves (though it is clear they often do not).
In a nice example of taking the high road, advertising student and blogger, Carson Pavkov, published a list of ethical guidelines for product placement on his blog. With the advent of digital recorders like TiVo, which allow users to skip over ads, as well as other developments that reduce the avenues for traditional advertising, marketers are increasingly turning to product placement, Pavkov says, citing a book, Media Ethics: Issues and Cases (6th Edition). “Advertisers are at a paradox,” he says. “Place products effectively, but don’t offend viewers.”
Toward this nuanced end, Pavkov describes three main rules for placing products:
1. Do not deceive the audience.
“For advertisers to place products in a way that further accentuates its characters and is relevant to the story is not deception,” Pavkov says. “However, when script writers and advertisers join forces to produce programs that are solely intended to sell product, they are engaging the viewer under false pretenses…”
2. Do not place products in media designed to be objective.
In Pavkov’s view, “placing products in news stories intended to inform readers truthfully and objectively is unethical.” (See StinkyJournalism’s previous report on news room product placement. Pavkov could have also included “news desks” as the photo above suggests.)
3. Do not place ads in facilities where consumers seek guidance
Medical settings are a no-no for product placement in Pavkov’s view. Consumers seeking real guidance for serious issues like personal health will certainly feel betrayed if they realize they are being sneakily advertised to.
Read Pavkov’s full discussion here.