The concept really took off in the 1980s as a result of its success in the movie E. T. The placement in the film triggered unprecedented growth in sales of Reese’s Pieces. Prior to 1980s the industry was somewhat disorganized and industry practices were haphazard. Since the start of the 1980s though, the product placement industry and its parent public relations industry grew to become major players in commerce, economy and politics. The following snippet helps us understand the size of the placement-industry: “BMW invested an estimated $20 million on the placement campaign surrounding the launch of its Z3 roadster; the campaign included prominent exposure in the James Bond film Golden Eye, as well as in most of the film's, trailer and television advertisements.
Spielberg's Minority Report contained interactive advertising billboards within the film promoting its placement sponsors, including Mokie and Lexus - who reportedly paid $5 million to $7 million each to promote their placements. Marketers are now moving more aggressively, seeking prominent roles for their brands in feature films. ” (Karrh, 2003) The bigger the industry, the more influential it is in affecting public opinion, consumption patterns and consumer behavior.
Given such a pervasive nature of industry impact, it is all the more relevant that its business practices are scrutinized for fairness and ethics. The best way to do this is to study the regulatory framework within which the industry operates and the factors affecting regulations in the first place (Russell & Belch, 2005). The two primary decision makers in the industry are the placement agencies and content producers. To gain a better understanding of ERMA in particular and the industry in general, a survey was conducted in 2003 by James Karrh and his team.
This survey gives us a sense of where the industry is presently and what could be expected in years to come. One of the key areas of discussion is the blurring of distinction between a) content created for purposes of information dissemination and b) content created for purposes of persuasion. With respect to regulation, these two content categories in and of themselves does not invoke introspection and debate.
Where regulations apply, quite rightly so, is in cases where “persuasion/propaganda” is integrated into a façade of “information”. When this happens, what we see is an act of sophisticated deceit. Given the far-reaching implications of such a phenomenon comprehensive research is warranted.
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