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Should Product Placement Be Regulated?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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In a cluttered world, advertisers and brands must continue trying to find the best way to get in front of their audiences. Product placement, the latest way to reach large audiences, has been successfully used and abused. We have all heard how American Idol went from a talent show to a Ford commercial, and as more information comes out about the newest Bond film, the less it sounds like an Ian Fleming character and more like a Heineken film.

But never have there been scientific studies that have suggested a ban on certain product placements in movies. AdLand does a decent job with self-regulation; as the language of business and the mirror of society, it is the responsibility of advertising to self-patrol. In the journal Pediatrics, a new study suggests that the MPAA should automatically label movies with smoking in them as rated 'R' based on the probability of teenagers trying it.

The study findings are compelling. According to the research, for every 500 smoking scenes in PG-13 movies a child sees, the likelihood that they will try smoking increases by 49%. That rate is similar to smoking scenes in rated 'R' movies.

There is a caveat. The lead researcher of the study is a cancer-prevention specialist from Dartmouth, so his bias toward finding a reason to ban smoking in PG-13 movies isn't hidden.

Although it is kind of odd that there is smoking in PG-13 movies, since the main audience for those films isn't of age, there is a slippery slope precedent that could be established here if a regulatory board acts before advertising does. Advertising needs to act and establish its own product placement rules. We agree that smoking should not be in movies by characters that could be admired by young children, but let's rely on the industry to fix that oversight, instead of demanding a "ban."

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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