With the increasing popularity of celebrity-focused magazines and reality TV shows, it appears to be far more difficult to distinguish between what is product placement and what is celebrity endorsement. To quickly extricate the two, celebrity endorsement is defined as a testimonial or “endorsement” consisting of a written, spoken or visual identification. Product placement, on the other hand, is a form of advertising where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads. Typically, celebrity endorsement is understood as providing some sort of disclosure at the time the good or service is featured, whereas product placement does not. This line, however, becomes blurry when we flip through magazines and see celebrities holding branded coffee cups, using branded technology or wearing branded workout gear.
This combination of celebrity endorsement coupled with product placement is better known as celebrity product placement, and it is one of the oldest tricks in the book, which almost always works out perfectly for all parties involved – celebrities get money and brands get exposure. Where celebrities once constantly complained about the paparazzi invading their space, it now appears that more and more of them are jumping at the opportunity to expose themselves in the name of a brand.
So, my main question is, how do we know when this blatant advertising is paid for or when it is simply a celebrity using a product that they enjoy? And, why does it matter?
In our media-driven and celebrity-obsessed society, where we want everything that both of these things “tell” us we should have, we believe that it is possible to be closer to our favorite celebrities (who we have in some ways elevated to royalty status in our casteless society) if we simply drive the same car and wear the same clothes as them. This being the case, sad or not, don’t we at least deserve to know the difference between what our “role models” are being paid to support and what they are choosing to support?