Case in Point: Product Placement Makes Shows Real, but Is It Ethical?

“Product placement is so common now that we all know it occurs routinely” (Plaisance, 2014, pg. 87). This quote came directly from the Case in Point. When watching TV or movies it is inevitable that there will be some form of brand within the production. It is hard for productions to go unfunded by these products or get some form of benefit from them. It is hard to believe viewers are going to see a Papa Ginos’ pizza and automatically purchase a pizza from there. Product placement adds an authenticity to the production; it is unlikely that a movie that recently came out doesn’t have an Apple product from their watches, televisions, most common phones and laptops. All of these products can be seen in some form of production but it doesn’t make you the viewer want to purchase them. The way in which I see product placement being an issue is in children films or shows. I recall wanting anything and everything that my favorite characters in shows wanted. This generation of children could be exposed to certain brands within their shows and want the same products.

In Talladega Nights starring Will Farrell, there is a scene where they are eating dinner and everything at the table is product placement. They have brands such as Coca-Cola, Wonder bread, KFC, and others. Wonder bread was the biggest brand in the movie because that was the lead sponsor for Ricky Bobby’s race car. According to Thomaselli (2006) of Advertising Age, there wasn’t any form of money exchange between Sony and Wonder bread. The movie did bring about 4.3 million dollars in exposure. For fans of race car driving, the sponsors of the cars add authenticity, if they didn’t have these brands it wouldn’t feel as a legitimate racing movie. With the sponsorship of Bobby’s car it added to the film and it wasn’t necessarily publicity stunt. Also according to Thomaselli (2006), Wonder Bread was apparently bankrupt, so there was no way of them paying to be a part of this movie.

There are a few negatives about product placement, one is it becomes disruptive. In a USA network show, White Collar, they all have HP computers. Every time there is an office scene in one of the corners you can see the HP lighting up on the computers or laptops. It isn’t a massive zoom in to the logo, but as viewers it is noticeable. Same exact concept when it comes to their cars. During an episode they got a new ford car and they were using all of the gadgets and gizmos within the car. They also showed an accident in the car and the man survived but the fact it showed the durability and safety of the car was quite obvious. If viewers didn’t look that closely to the car brand, it would have never mattered. After studying product placement it becomes obvious when you see consistent logos in the background or forefront of shows.

Aside from it being disruptive, it could take away from the show. I noticed on White Collar when the wanted to point out aspects of the car, they would somewhat lose the seriousness of the scene. It became obvious that it was all to bring awareness to the accessories the car possessed. It didn’t all around ruin the episode or anything, but that split moment of promotion took a little away. Another negative which was mentioned in the book was the in the movie Flight. Denzel Washington’s character was an alcoholic pilot and his drink of choice was Budweiser.  This example of product placement could have a negative impact on Budweiser making it seem as if their product contains too much alcohol or causing alcoholism.

The fear of product placement is the artistic element of the film will be misconstrued as an ad campaign of some sort. When people go to movies they want to see it because of the actors, plot, or overall excitement for the movie. No one is taking away from what the actors, directors, and producers do. It is their work of art and that can’t be taken away because of some product placement in the background. It isn’t unethical or unruly towards the creators or cast of the show. It is a concept that has been added to the show for the betterment of authenticity. In my perspective it adds a form of reality to the production instead of drinking a drink unlabeled or using an unmarked product. It takes away from the movie when that happens; it looks as if it is missing something. Product placement could go either way ethically or unethically. I believe it has become part of television and movies in the 21st century.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Thomaselli, R. (2006). Movie Gives Wonder Bread Exposure Worth $4.3 Million. Retrieved from


Bamboozled [Motion picture]. (2001). United States: New Line Home Entertainment.

Directed By: Spike Lee.
Starring: Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, & Tommy Davidson.


BAMBOOZLED is a spoof on the creation of Minstrel shows. The movie focuses on the life of Pierre Delacroix, who is a determined Harvard graduate. He is the only colored writer for the network and his boss, an uptight wannabe black man, holds him to very high standards because of his color. Since Pierre has had very little success with getting his works on the air, he stops at nothing to get his big break. He is willing to sell out friends, family, and his own people. He seeks the help of two young black men that are willing to do anything for a quick buck, in this case a lot more than a few bucks. Money, power, and respect are put on the line throughout this film.

When Mr. Delacroix meets with Manray and Womack, he promises them stardom and a chance of a lifetime. They were in it for the money and didn’t care what they had to do. The first major unethical occurrence was Pierre’s boss using his color against him, for his own benefit. The next unethical occurrence took place in that conference room when Pierre promised them stardom. He never told them exactly what the show was going to be a bout. He knew they were talented street performers, but he also knew they were desperate for a chance. Taking advantage of two desperate people like that is completely unethical. Since the show was going to have them act as “coons” and stereotypical black people. They were to put on black makeup over their black skin, just as if they were actors in Minstrel show. The difference is in Minstrel shows they had white people with black makeup on, now they have black people with black makeup on.

At first the audience isn’t amused at all by this racist show and wants nothing to do with it. The fans are disgusted by it, by the end of the movie, every fan has their face covered with black makeup and red lipstick. They all proclaim that they too are Ni**ers. At this point everyone of color has come to realize all the negatives that this show had portrayed. They knew all of the negatives originally, but were willing to stop at nothing to get the ratings.

Pierre created this show in order to please his boss. He didn’t see all the harm that could be done by this show. Manray ends up getting kidnapped and then killed by a group of blacks (with one white guy), because he was considered a sellout. He danced, he sang, and he acted the way in which he was like a puppet to Pierre and his superiors. This group didn’t find anything he was doing amusing or ethical. They saw it as a cop out and making a mockery of what already was a mockery of African Americans. Kidnapping is unethical by all means, killing someone over a show and pretending to be activist is also unethical. From start to finish had a lot of unethical components to it, but at the end you really saw the big message that Spike Lee wanted to get across. Sometimes you have to really push the envelope especially around issues such as this, to get your point across.

Photo credit: Bamboozled. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Blog Post # 1


When looking at the Tom Cooper article you get a lot of information from all different aspects of media ethics. The biggest take away for me were the polls. The most recent in 2006 didn’t show any big difference from the polls in the 90s. “Americans reveal anxiety about the truth telling, functions of the press and remain concerned about privacy, violence and much more… when asked in 1993 what the “most important quality or characteristic the new media needed to have to maintain high standards,” respondents listed ethical issues at the heart of journalistic purpose: “ truth, honesty” (61%); “accuracy, check stories, sources” (26%); “fairness, balance” (19%); and “sensitivity” (7%) (Los Angeles Times, 1993).” (Cooper, 2008) Then  “Three years later, a similar set of issues emerged, although the order of concerns had shifted (Princeton Survey Research Associates, 1997): sensationalism/hype/exaggeration/disproportion (25%), bias/slanted/liberal/one-sided reporting (23%), offer their own opinions and views/distort facts (9%), overemphasis on the negative (8%), and invade people’s personal lives/privacy (7%).” (Cooper, 2008) With 25% of the vote going to sensationalism/hype/exaggeration/disproportion, this speaks to one of the saddest stories of last year, the death of Robin Williams.

After reading an article about all the negative comments and allegations after the death of Robin Williams it was extremely unethical. There was a Fox news reporter tat said he was a “coward” for killing himself. A Uk reporter was in trouble for saying he had no sympathy for Williams. There were allegations about him drinking during shows. This was such a sensitive subject for a lot of people that the Robin Williams had passed away. All of the different characters he played in movies resonated with all ages. For these reporters to treat a death like this is unethical and wrong. There were other sources that had negative things that say about Robin Williams, which is crazy to think about.

Coming off of that is an article that is somewhat of a guide for journalist to handle the terrible event of suicide. Some of the key pointers in it are, “Don’t say committed suicide instead died by suicide; Don’t romanticize the act; Don’t jump to conclusions; Don’t go into details about the method used; Don’t call suicide “successful” or attempted suicide “unsuccessful”; Death is not a matter of success, Don’t use or repeat pejorative phrases such as “the coward’s way out” which reinforce myths and stigma.”(Smith, 2014) All of these pointers make for a more ethical article and it is more respectful. No one in the family wants to read suicide in every article, they don’t want to sugar coat it either. You have to be respectful of their wishes. With Robin being part of everyone’s life through movies, shows or comedy, as a journalist you need to keep them in mind too. A 12 year old isn’t going to understand suicide as much as a 22 year old, so you do have to watch what you say and how.

When I constructed my interviews all five interviewees agreed that it is unethical to throw out false information especially when it comes to a death. That person can’t necessarily defend themselves and we will never understand why. Suicide is a very sensitive subject and all of my interviewees cringed at the thought of it. Once I mentioned how Robin was somewhat ridiculed they couldn’t believe it. One of the interviewees said, “Wow that is very unsettling… He was Mrs. Doubtfire and Peter Pan, how could anyone be cruel to that man… Especially after his passing that’s just wrong.”  One of my interviewees somewhat understood, “Robin was starting to look bad as he got older; his life was kind of going downhill. I am not saying he had the right to commit suicide because that is just awful. A reporter should never call another person a coward though for such events. You don’t know what was going on in his life!”

Moving away from suicide, every interviewee agreed that you have to be respectful and precise as a journalist. You can’t report on something that has no proof or sources. My grandmother was one of the interviewees and she watches the news more than anything. She was seriously concerned because when she watches the news, she expects it to be credible. As an older woman once she hears something, she has to share it. So if something she heard wasn’t credible she looks like the idiot, not the news or reporter. In general, as consumers we should feel that everything we are told comes from credible sources, and we can trust them.

Cooper, T. (2008). Between the Summits: What Americans Think About Media Ethics.Journal Of Mass Media Ethics23(1), 15-27. doi:10.1080/08900520701753106

Smith, S. (2014). Say ‘died by suicide’ not ‘committed suicide, ‘Ethical reporting tips on suicide. International Media Ethic News. Retrieved from

Smith, S. (2014). Top 10 Media Ethics Issues of 2014. International Media Ethic News. Retrieved from

My Philosopher: John Rawls


John Rawls is considered one of the most influential Philosophers of the 20th century. He was declared this by President Bill Clinton. He is known for being a philosopher that dealt with moral and politics. He was born on February 21, 1921 in Baltimore Maryland to William Rawls and Anna Abell Stump Rawls. He was also raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the 2nd of 5 sons to the couple. John had probably one of the worst tragedies anyone can ever experience. Not one but two of his brothers had died during their childhood because they contracted fatal illnesses from John. John had gotten diphtheria and when his younger brother Booby, visited him and got infected with the illness and passed away. The following year, he got pneumonia and his other younger brother caught it and also died. So within the first 8 years of living he had essentially witnessed two deaths of his siblings all because of the illnesses he had contracted.

John’s father was a well-known lawyer in the Maryland area. His father had studied law from the young age of 14. By age 22 he actually passed the bar exam and joined a very notable law form. With all of this law exposure John never wanted to pursue a career in law by any means. He stayed in Maryland to pursue his college education by attending Ivy League school, Princeton University. He also got his PH.D from Princeton after a short time in the army. He wasn’t sure about his major right away, after testing the waters he then decided on philosophy. At one point during his later years at Princeton, he really started like religion. He considered being a priest. He was so interested in religion that his thesis was, “A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith, which was later published in 2009. After he was in the war, he really started to question faith because “he wondered how a benevolent God could have allowed such evil to take place” (Foss, 2014).

“After the war, he returned to Princeton to pursue a doctorate in philosophy. His dissertation was an attempt to formulate a method for judging moral arguments. In that work, Rawls was reacting to the relativistic claim that morals cannot be judged because they are merely subjective values. Rawls denied this, but he also denied that any one moral claim, including any of those grounded in religion, could be used as a standard for judging other moral claims” (Foss, 2014).

Rawls greatest influences came from his time at Princeton and his time aboard at Oxford. At Princeton he was influenced by Norman Malcolm, then at his time at Oxford worked alongside H. L. A. Hart, Isaiah Berlin, and Stuart Hampshire. These were his major influences. According to Richardson, “He wrote a series of highly influential articles in the 1950s and ’60s that helped refocus Anglo-American moral and political philosophy on substantive problems about what we ought to do. His first book, A Theory of Justice (1971), revitalized the social-contract tradition, using it to articulate and defend a detailed vision of egalitarian liberalism.” (Richardson, n.d.)

According to Foss, In today’s world Rawl’s Theory which looks at the principles of egalitarianism, toleration, consensus politics and societal fairness informs much of contemporary liberalism’s aspirations, constitutional interpretations, domestic policies, and public rhetoric. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the principles behind such laws as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, are most thoroughly argued by John Rawls. Much the same can be said of the Supreme Court’s reference to the “evolving understanding of the meaning of equality” in the 2013 same-sex marriage case, U.S. v. Windsor. Rawls’s silent influence has been immense. (Foss, 2014)

Rawls died in 2002 at the age of 81. He had a life of a lot of great successes. He was a Professor at Harvard for 30 plus years. He had so many accolades such as the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy (1999), National Humanities Medal (1999), Asteroid 16561 Rawls was also named in his memory.  In closing Wenar says, “Nevertheless, while Rawls’s vision is realistic it is also utopian. To believe that Rawls’s vision is possible is to believe that individuals are not merely selfish or amoral, and that international relations can be more than a contest for power, wealth, and glory. Affirming the possibility of a just and peaceful future can inoculate against a resignation or cynicism that might otherwise seem inevitable. “By showing how the social world may realize the features of a realistic utopia, political philosophy provides a long-term goal of political endeavor, and in working toward it gives meaning to what we can do today” (LP, 128).” (Wenar, 2008)


Reference Page

Duignan, B. (2014). John Rawls | biography – American philosopher. Retrieved  from

Foss, J.C. (2014,). John Rawls: Theorist of Modern Liberalism. Retrieved from\

Richardson, H. (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

Wenar, Leif. (2008). John Rawls. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from