Stealth Marketers Gone Wild: Will the FCC Act?

One of my favorite critiques of our ad-saturated modern world is in "Infinite Jest," the epic novel by recently-departed author and essayist David Foster Wallace. In the novel's not-too-distant future, time itself has become a corporate marketing opportunity. There's the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar and the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. That's not to mention the Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile, which is often abbreviated.

The novel's system of Subsidized Time is hilarious ... and you can almost imagine it really happening. At least corporate-sponsored years wouldn't present the disclosure problems of today's stealth ads -- marketing messages that masquerade as entertainment or news content.

The Center for Media and Democracy believes that all advertising should be as clearly announced as the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar. That's why we just filed a comment with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is debating how its sponsorship identification rules apply to product placement, product integration and other types of "embedded advertising" relayed over television or radio stations.

In 2003, Commercial Alert urged the FCC to address product placement disclosure. "Advertisers can puff and tout, and use all the many tricks of their trade," the watchdog group wrote (pdf). "But they must not pretend that their ads are something else."

Especially, we would add, when that "something else" is news programming.

Absolving Your Sins and CYA: Corporations Embrace Voluntary Codes of Conduct

"We do not want children to smoke," British American Tobacco (BAT) declares on its website. But the company that describes itself as the "world's most international tobacco group" routinely violates its own voluntary international marketing and advertising standards, according to a July 1, 2008 BBC-TV This World investigation. BAT was caught in Malawi, Mauritius and Nigeria using marketing tactics that are well-known to appeal to youth: advertising and selling single cigarettes, and sponsoring non-age-restricted, product-branded musical entertainment. (See also "Playing with Children's Lives: Big Tobacco in Malawi.")

They Don't Need No Sponsored Health Education

Corporate-funded "educational" materials about healthy eating distributed to British schools have been criticized by Britain's Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health and dieticians' groups. "It's bad nutritional advice, which could give children wrong ideas about food at a very impressionable time," said Richard Watts of the Children's Food Campaign. The campaign is "assembling a dossier" on such materials, to prod the government to act.

Sears to Start Selling Line of Official U.S. Military Garb

Sears has entered into a first-ever deal with the United States Military to market a new line of officially sanctioned, military-styled clothing to men, women and boys.

Faking Reality in the Name of National Interest

First the organizers of China's spectacular Olympic opening ceremony admitted that they digitally faked the dazzling "footprint" fireworks that viewers saw on TV leading up to the Bird's Nest stadium.

Help Yourself to Deportation

Following a raid on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa that's been condemned as "inhumane" and "a Kafkaesque travesty of justice," U.S.

Having a Blast with the U.S. Army

For the U.S. Army it's "an innovative way to reach a new audience" and "an opportunity to shape their tastes." The "Virtual Army Experience," a multi-million dollar videogame and traveling exhibit, has been making stops at amusement parks, air shows and county fairs over the past year and a half.

Public Criticism for Public Strategies

Human rights and labor activists protested outside the Washington DC offices of Public Strategies, Inc., claiming that the public relations firm helps the Bridgestone / Firestone Tire Company "deflect attention away from the company's long history of exploiting workers and the environment on its rubber plantation in Liberia." The protest comes shortly after the publication of a

Syndicate content