Writers Against Product Placement

November 14th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Those of you who watch television on a regular basis have surely noticed a trend: brand names everywhere. They’re in the movies, too. Rising production costs and declining ad sales have lead to an increase in product placement. It’s the future of motion picture entertainment or so we’ve been told.

And when a new trend hits the scene, the desire for money follows right behind. The next big fight for writers in Hollywood will be how to share in the big bucks generated by product placement. The writers’ argument: they have to craft dialogue and story to fit the product. The studio argument: hello, this is how we can afford to pay your salary.

Disguised as a public service suggestion — the idea is being presented as a way to inform consumers about inline advertising, in case they’re confused by the sudden, inexplicable use of a brand name — this potentially contentious issue is really about money for talent (the actors are on board, and where the actors go, so follow the directors. And so on.).

While our sympathies lie with the authors (traditionally less well-compensated than others involved with the production), the faux altruism rankles. Are the guilds demanding the same level of control and disclosure over commercials? Where is the line drawn? Is it only related to integrating products into the storyline or does it extend to the long-standing practice of placing a bottle of Bud in the frame? How does this work considering these writers are often doing work for hire rather than owning their product? If the writers want to share in the revenue, does this mean they’ll also share in the costs? You can’t have it both ways, you know. It is, as we are fond of noting, like borrowing someone’s car, driving it everywhere, then expecting the owner to pay for gas and maintenance.

File Under: Square Pegs