Music labels, channels mull product placements in videos

MUMBAI: In the US, product placements in music videos seem to be the name of the game. Major music labels, grappling with piracy and recession, have been defying music channels, teaming up with advertisers willing to help finance costly videos in exchange for product visibility. Current trends indicate that music channels are relenting and using this to expand their revenue streams.

A recent example is a rap artist racing General Motor's new automobile Hummer H2 in a music video. The vehicle Hummers seem to get as much screen time as rap artiste Jade. The cost of the product placement is estimated to be around $300,000 -- more than half the expense of the video produced by Interscope Records. By doing this, the music label directly defied MTV which had banned product placements.

MTV used to blank out brand names or force labels to blur out images in order to ensure that its discerning audiences don't rebel. But, some videos, invariably, seem to escape the alert and watchful eyes of the programming team. MTV has unknowingly aired ad-supported videos from acts such as rhythm and blues singer Tweet and dance music trio Dirty Vegas without repercussions. In 2002, the channel ordered that shots of Pepsi Blue be edited out of a video by the group Sev after Interscope notified MTV of a product placement deal, channel officials said.

MTV's gatekeepers are now considering allowing some marketing messages in videos -- but only if they decide that a product placement is discreet and fits with a clip's theme or story line.

MTV's executive vice president of music and talent Tom Calderone advocated the view that the channel is trying to be sensitive to music labels without risking audience trust. However, he put the onus of disclosures and trust on the record companies.

Some in the industry believe it's just a matter of time before the music video turns into a powerful sales tool not only for musicians but for almost anything they might drive, play, wear, eat, or blow up in a clip.

Advertisers say paying for cameo roles in videos of rising music stars can be a relatively cheap way to tap the youth market.

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