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By B.L. Ochman @whatsnext

Paid Placements: Yes. Misrepresentation: No!

Beware of companies that misrepresent their paid placements as news. You will never be asked to pay for legitimate news coverage.

I had a most exciting email this morning. It said “I’m reaching out to you because one of our producers came across Funwalkers, and thought that it would be a great fit for our show, NewsWatch. If you’ve never caught an episode, we are a 30-minute consumer review show that airs in over 200 markets and 95 million US households on The AMC Network.”

What the email – and the website – didn’t say: this would be a paid placement, aka advertisement, to the tune of $15K.

There’s nothing wrong with paid placements. And I am not saying that they don’t work for many companies. We see paid placements every day on videos, TV shows, movies, in games and even in ads.

Funwalkers License Plates is my startup company that makes funny license plates for walkers and rollators. I aim to encourage seniors to make more use of their walkers by reducing the stigma associated with their use.

The company is coming along, and has already gotten some press coverage, with more coming up in major media.

The TV “opportunity” wasn’t real!

So the idea of being featured on a TV show with a national audience was something that put me over the moon. Until I Googled NewsWatch. Turns out, coverage on NewsWatch would cost several thousand dollars!

Then I wrote to the producer and asked if there was a production cost. He said “yes.”

I replied:
I’ll listen to what you have to say. But be aware that Funwalkers is a startup with no advertising budget. ..”

He wrote back:
“I feel it would be a waste of both of our times.” And cancelled the call.

On Reddit, I found a post asking “Has anyone been contacted by “News Watch TV” – are they legit?”

The consensus: No. “Real news exposure doesn’t cost you. My products have been on a few local news shows (we do safety and work with kids so there is general appeal) and they have never asked for money.”

Companies That Do Paid Placements Right

Captivate Media which makes videos for lobby and elevator media screens, is a legitimate company that provides paid content and does not deceive. It explains clearly on their homepage that they produce paid content. And, hey, it’s fun to get a quick bit of news while on an elevator!

In-flight Media provides content for seatbacks on airlines in flight. Their homepage clearly leads to a pricing category and they describe themselves as provider of advertising. We’ve all watched those. Some of them are quite engaging.

There are scores of companies that create “embedded content” for films, TV, games and even ads. It’s no accident, for example, that a character reaches for Smirnoff, or Pepsi, or that he or she drives a particular car. There are millions of dollars worth of product placements every year, and they’ve expanded with the decline of traditional advertising.

You Could Get Sued for Undisclosed Paid Placements

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rather muddled rules about paid product placements, but they demand that paid placements be identified.

Google will flag your site as a spam site if you don’t use No Follow links in your paid posts. You will not be happy when that happens! I learned that one the hard way.

Amazon will sue you if you buy fake product reviews and post them on their site. They’ve sued more than 1,000 defendants since 2015 according to Marketing Land.

Tread carefully with paid placements. Learn the facts before you get out your credit card.