Q: What if the host of a television talk show expresses her opinions about a product – let’s say a videogame – and she was paid for the promotion? The segment is entertainment, it’s humorous, and it’s not like the host is an expert. Is that different from a product placement and does the payment have to be disclosed?
A: If the host endorses the product – even if she is just playing the game and saying something like “wow, this is awesome” – it’s more than a product placement. If the payment for the endorsement isn’t expected by the audience and it would affect the weight the audience gives the endorsement, it should be disclosed. It doesn’t matter that the host isn’t an expert or the segment is humorous as long as the endorsement has credibility that would be affected by knowing about the payment. However, if what the host says is obviously an advertisement – think of an old-time television show where the host goes to a different set, holds up a cup of coffee, says “Wake up with ABC Coffee. It’s how I start my day!” and takes a sip – a disclosure probably isn’t necessary.