The People’s Choice awards was well on its way when they declared a pizza break and a team of well labelled DiGiorno pizza servers came marching out with pizza.  And then there were the celebrities who were taking photos with their Kodak cameras – loudly labelled at that.

It got me wondering where the line between editorial and commercial got that blurred.

Product placement has been with us for a long time, famously when ET preferred Reese’s Pieces.  Product placement appearances, though, have not always been so blatant or heavy handled.

Is it that the advertisers have more power or have the producers of programming become overwhelmed?

Flimsy programing, like game shows, that have little editorial content and are designed to be extended commercials, have long integrated commercial mentions with content.  When Monty Hall revealed the brand new car his contestant won, it came with a list of advertiser defined features.

But when the CSI Miami crew make pointed use of Hummers, an incongruous placement of $100,000 vehicles for a police force, we sort of accept it.  How many police forces would allocate that kind of money for a status vehicle?

But is The People’s Choice award show any more than a prime time version of a game show?  Isn’t it just a promotional vehicle?

Like the OSCARS, or any “award” show, the show is designed to promote the entertainment industry.  It doesn’t have any real editorial content.  So cheesy (pun intended) product placement is nothing to be concerned about.

What is interesting is that few people see award shows as promotional vehicles.  They are considered newsworthy content and reported on the News shows.  The News shows are also part of the entertainment industry and have a vested interest in promoting the awards shows.

That’s why half of the news is not journalistic but promotional.  Public relations folks do their jobs really well.  And the news folks don’t seem to mind or notice.  When the sports guy tells us about the game to come, he is promoting it, not providing news.  And what TV news cast doesn’t have their celebrity report or talk about the shows on their own network?  News stories about Jay Leno’s show are not exactly incisive journalism.

Or, when the football post-game show features a presentation from our old pal Jared from Subway of a new sandwich feature to the coach/expert panel.  What does that have to do with football?

Perhaps this intrusion, or crossing the line, reflects a need from both broadcasters and advertisers.  Broadcasting is suffering from fragmentation.  Each channel is losing viewers to more and more channels that are proliferating on cable.  Each channel is also losing viewers to internet downloads such as Hulu, the networks themselves or file sharing.

Advertisers are losing eyeballs on their commercials to internet viewing, TIVO/PVRs, downloads, channel surfing and plain old lousy commercials that are uninspired and tedious.  So how do you intrude and get viewers to notice you if they are fast forwarding through your commercial on their PVR?

With one move.  Broadcasters add revenue by selling in show features and integrate the advertiser into the program for all future downloads.  Advertisers have always been keen on doing this and are happy to buy.  It even adds a small factor of endorsement at times that advertisers also like.

The downside for viewers is full time infomercials which will test viewers desire to watch particularly such commercialized promotional vehicles such as award shows.

What I would love to see is a show, let me call it “Awards of Awards,” where celebrities give out awards for: the best award show, the best award show presentations, the best staging, the best award show blooper, best fashion statement at an awards show and, maybe, even the best product placement.

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