Guild Urges FCC to Disclose Product Integration
June 25, 2008
Calls for Using On-screen Real-Time Crawl to Alert
Viewers to Brand Placements
Hollywood’s screenwriters are the latest group to write
poison-pen letters to the Federal Communications
Commission about Madison Avenue’s use of product
integration, which jumped 39% on broadcast TV in the
first quarter of 2008, according to Nielsen Product
Writers Guild of America West President Patric M.
Verrone fired off a letter yesterday to FCC chairman
Kevin Martin, urging him to address disclosure issues
arising from product integration into film and,
especially, broadcast TV.
The FCC is expected to vote later this week to study if
TV programs ought to clearly disclose when sponsors paid
to have products integrated, and some wire reports have
already said that a “notice of proposed rule-making”
will be announced as early as tomorrow.
‘Cease to be creators’
In his letter, Mr. Verrone wrote: “When writers are told
we must incorporate a commercial product into the
storylines we have written, we cease to be creators.
Instead, we run the risk of alienating an audience that
expects compelling television, not commercials.”
His solution is to disclose placements in an on-screen
crawl. “The practice of placing text along the bottom of
the screen, also known as a ‘crawl,’ is already widely
used by many networks to announce weather reports,
emergency communications, stock market updates, and
other breaking news,” he wrote.
Mr. Verrone added that “to further protect creative
artists and maximize disclosure, the WGAW believes that
the real-time crawl should appear for a reasonable
period of time, should move at a reasonable speed,
should be clearly readable by the viewer with a
reasonable degree of color contrast between the
background and the text, and should not include logos or
other product-related graphics. The Guild also hopes
that any disclosure rules would require the name of the
product and the parent company to be included in the
Latest to protest
The Guild president’s missive follows a bevy of public
interest groups—including the Marin Institute, the Free
Press and Commercial Alert—calling for the FCC to
establish guidelines requiring on-screen real-time
disclosure on TV shows where product integration occurs.
Mr. Verrone’s letter also calls for a ban on the use of
video news releases—prepackaged segments on local and
broadcast news often created by drug companies and
marketing departments of other consumer products hoping
to tilt media coverage into a more favorable light.
“It is amazing to watch at the audacity of both the
advertisers and the broadcast affiliates who allow such
blatant advertising opportunities to pass as news,” he
Even as writers were pleading to make product
integration so ham-handed as to be rendered useless,
proponents of integration were readying their own awards
show: The First Annual One Show Entertainment Awards.
The show is meant to recognize outstanding creative
achievements by brands in the realm of entertainment and
will take place, ironically enough, at the Paley Center
for Media in Los Angeles on Oct. 7.
The event will “pay tribute to creative branding beyond
mere product placement” according to a recent press
release touting the event.
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