Should Music Videos Have to Disclose Product Placement?
In the first seconds of DJ Khaled’s video for “I’m the One,” the camera pans onto him inserting a Beats branded earbud into his ear. He speaks into the microphone, his head cocked to the side so the Beats logo remains in the center of the shot. The video progresses into a montage of Khaled and other stars—Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne—partying at a waterfront estate. Lil Wayne sings with a bottle of Bumbo cocked at his side; Khaled holds multiple bottles of Ciroc to the camera; bottles of Belaire idle poolside. Revelers smoke KandyPens e-cigarettes. At times, the video feels like an overt advertisement, but to a Khaled fan, the undisguised branding may just reflect his usual level of brazenness.
Branding is so inescapable in everyday life, an onscreen reflection of that reality is easy to dismiss—but its ubiquity in music videos isn’t a coincidence. In recent years, product placement has provided a healthy revenue stream to an industry that has struggled to maintain profitability in changing times. From electronics and clothing brands to food and liquor, products carefully situated in music clips have yielded handsome payouts to musicians. Though often hailed as creative marketing, these placements are considered “embedded advertising” by law, subject to almost the same (if not more) stringent rules than typical advertising. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken the position that most of these types of advertisements require disclosure—so why aren’t they enforcing these rules against music videos?