Friday, November 17, 2006

John Deere to politicians: keep our tractors out of ads

Once called stealth advertising, product or brand placement in television shows and movies has become less subtle and more blatant.

This might have begun after Reese’s Pieces used in the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial movie drove up sales by 65 percent, but there has been a noticeable increase in the number and frequency of brand names in movies and certain television programs.

At first, viewers might not have thought twice to see certain brands of alcohol, sunglasses, soda drinks, cigarette brands or computers while they were being entertained. Yet inexplicably, they may have been drawn to buy these products in the future.

But as the public becomes more aware that companies have paid to have their products displayed in the background, used by the actors or appear frequently during the program, consumers may have become more suspicious.

Would their hero really have chosen that type of product because of taste, usefulness or because it’s the best ... or was it because that company offered the most money to have its product in that show?

Earlier this month, a farm machinery company took an unusual step: John Deere issued a statement to defend itself during the election campaign when John Deere products appeared in some political advertisements.

The press release stated:

MOLINE, IL (November 03, 2006) — John Deere equipment and John Deere-branded clothing have been used in various political advertisements in the U.S. during recent campaigns advocating a candidate or issue. While John Deere is a strong advocate for free speech, use of the brand in political ads is not authorized by John Deere. Some members of the public have been led to believe that John Deere endorses a candidate or position because John Deere's brand or equipment appears in these advertisements. This is not the case. John Deere considers unauthorized use of its brand to be an infringement of the company’s rights to protect its brand name.

This poses an interesting dilemma: companies for the most part probably appreciate free broadcast publicity and product placement — in the right light and positive context, or maybe as a subtle hint in the background — and it can help sales if viewers decide to purchase more of their products.

But with the sensitivities of politics, companies may want to distance themselves and appear neutral or decide themselves which political contender they wish to be associated with for the long term.

Time will tell if this is the start of a more such news releases in the future, especially from the agricultural industry, and if the public sees non-identifiable nameless, colorless, shapeless machinery and agricultural products on the TV or on the big screen.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this blog today was not influenced, paid for or otherwise encouraged by any specific special interest group or farm implement company.)

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