Pay for Play


Product placement in TV programming is not a typical tool in the average PR person’s toolbox. That tactic usually comes out of a company’s ad/marketing budget. Should PR people be cognizant of its function? Yes, just as we should know about advocacy or issues advertising when traditional PR fails to take hold.

Writing for Business Week, after a relatively lengthy stay as media reporter for Ad Age, Jon Fine reports on marketers’ efforts to infiltrate newspaper and magazine copy with paid, unflagged product mentions.

The analogy doesn’t work for me. It’s one thing to pay for a placement in “The Apprentice,” but I assure you that “NBC News with Brian Williams” won’t stand for it. Same goes for the magazines of Conde Nast and Hearst. However, if one were to correlate editorial coverage and advertising spend at the glossies, it’s no secret that a linkage exists. CN’s Vanity Fair even created a paid editorial look-a-like party photo section to appease its advertisers. The lines continue to blur.