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Product placement pushes into print

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On the new reality TV show "Three Wishes," host Amy Grant helps small-town folks solve their problems with the help of several familiar brand-name products, whose makers chip in goods or services in order to have them mentioned on the show. On "Meet Mister Mom," dads compete at running households while their wives are away, and the men use only authorized brands: They all clean with one household product, drive the kids in one brand of minivan, and shop at one predetermined department store.

Such commercial arrangements, called product placements, have become ubiquitous since "Survivor" launched the reality TV craze five years ago. Analyzing the fall season, CBS television chairman Les Moonves declared in June, "I think you're going to see a quantum leap in the number of products integrated into your television shows this year."

Now some signs indicate that these practices may be infiltrating a much older medium: magazines and newspapers.

Revenue from product placements in magazine editorial copy - the stories and photographs - is expected to rise 17.5 percent to $160.9 million this year, and in newspapers by 16.9 percent to $65 million, says a report from PQ Media in Stamford, Conn., released in July.

The study measured all placements of products, whether paid for, exchanged in a barter arrangement, or included without compensation to the publication. It also counted such things as product reviews and photos of products provided by companies without charge.

Product placements, if done in exchange for payment, would violate the operating guidelines of most publications, which usually insist on a clear division between stories or "editorial copy" and advertising as a mark of responsible journalism.

An executive summary of the PQ Media report, titled "Product Placement Spending in Media 2005," did not specify any specific instances where products had been placed in a particular newspaper or magazine in return for payment. It did identify Ford Motor Co. and American Express as among those companies that participate in product placement in magazines.


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