Product placement in US television shows is under attack from consumer watchdog Commercial Alert, which is calling on federal agencies to investigate.

The pressure group – co-founded by veteran consumerist campaigner Ralph Nader – denounced the increasingly widespread practice as "an affront to basic honesty" that misleads viewers by failing to point out when brands have been placed in a show.

CA has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission, naming as offenders the networks ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, Walt Disney, WB Television and United Paramount.

The lobbyist is demanding an inquiry and asking for new guidelines to make sure broadcasters inform viewers of all product placements, preferably before the start of the show in which they are due to appear.

"Advertising has to be distinguished as infomercials, not a misleading format," declared CA executive director Gary Ruskin. "Part of our argument is that there should be separate context. Television enterprises have to disclose when ads are ads. There are rules for internet searches and for magazine advertising."

The pressure group has had success in this field before. Three years ago it complained about the covert sponsorship of internet search engines, which were rigged to ensure that sponsors’ details featured prominently among web search results. Last year the FTC agreed and wrote to a host of big web companies demanding that they disclose paid placements [WAMN: 03-Jul-02].

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff