Product Placement Regulation: Steven Spielberg's E. T.

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Product placement as a common practice began around the 1930s, when film studios needed cars for specific scenes and automobile companies would offer to help out. In 1982, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. featured Reese’s Pieces candy multiple times throughout the film, boosting Reese’s sales by 66% and bringing media attention to the concept of product placement (Wenner, 2004, p. 104-105). Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates embedded advertising in radio and television. Though many individuals claim such regulations are ambiguous and outdated, the Communications Act of 1934 requires broadcasters “to make sponsorship identification announcements in any paid-for programming” in Section 317 and “to report when any ‘money, service, or other valuable consideration’ is provided for the inclusion of a product or brand in a television program” in Section 508. In addition, the FCC’s own sponsorship identification rules “require a sponsorship announcement once during a program … if there is no obvious connection between a commercial product … and its sponsor” (Fujawa, 2012, p. 557).
These regulations, however, do not extend to online content. Sponsored web content is expected to follow the endorsement regulations of the Federal Trade Commission
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59). Such advertising has been categorized into three forms: “(1) explicit sponsorship where the sponsoring company pays the YouTuber … to market a brand or product, (2) affiliated links where purchases made through the link, or coupon code, provided by the YouTuber will help the YouTuber earn a commission on the sale, and (3) free product sampling where companies send products to YouTubers with the hope that they will create product reviews, advertorials, and just general exposure of the product” (Wu, 2016, p.
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