The term “product placement advertising” may not appear in Webster’s New World™ College Dictionary, but even if they don’t know what it’s called, most 21st century media consumers know it when they see it.
Advertisers pay plenty for their products to appear in movies, TV shows, books, etc. But the idea is to do it subtly — not overtly, like most advertising — so the inclusion seems innocent and the products ubiquitous.
When done properly, the consumer isn’t even aware of what’s going on, and the subliminal effect is maximized. When the placement is more blatant and occurs repeatedly, the intent is transparent — and offensive.
Spokesmen for the state Education Department and Pearson, the company that has produced New York’s Common Core tests, insist that nobody got paid for several irrelevant product references in questions on this month’s eighth-grade Common Core English exam.
If true, companies like Nike, Mattel, Apple and PepsiCo (owner of the less-than-iconic Mug Root Beer mentioned in one of the questions) must be rejoicing, because the references — however benign their intent — sure caught the attention of (and puzzled) youthful test-takers and their parents.
Assuming the references weren’t germane to what was being tested — and from what little state and company officials will say about them, they were not — they were inappropriate.
A little editing by Pearson, at State Ed.’s insistence, is definitely in order.