FCC member asks agency to investigate stealth advertising

The LATimes(reg. req.) reports that Johnathan S. Adelstein, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, has asked the agency to investigate hidden advertising also commonly known as product placements.

Adelstein criticized specific on-air personalities touting products without divulging that they are paid endorsers as well as criticizing the lack of full disclosure in the pay-for-plugs proliferating in scripted and reality TV.

Adelstein lamented the practice, in which advertisers pay to get cars, cellphones, soft drinks and other products prominently featured or mentioned in shows.
"This is becoming so prevalent that people can't escape it by even taking a bathroom break," Adelstein said. "It's OK if the broadcasters do this, but they need to inform the public that it's being done."

Failing to disclose payments, he said, violates a 78-year-old FCC rule requiring broadcasters to clearly identify who provided "valuable consideration" to shows. Adelstein also took a swipe at his agency, which is charged with monitoring the public airwaves, for being lax in enforcing the regulations.

He wants networks to do more than inserting quick and tiny mentions of paid sponsorships in closing credits.

"A disclosure that appears on screen for a split second during the credits in small type that no one could possibly read without pausing their DVR — and pulling out a magnifying glass — could not possibly qualify," he said.

Gary Ruskin, executive director of the nonprofit Commercial Alert, agrees.

"The whole television industry has moved to stealth advertising," Ruskin said. "It's dishonest advertising that sneaks by our critical faculties and plants messages in our brains when we are paying less attention."

All in all, stealth advertising and ad creep, on TV, online or via word of mouth is bad.

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