Remanded Entertainment: TV Writers Ask To Be Part Of Product Placement Talksby Wayne Friedman, Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:45 AM EST
IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY, TV writers say, in their concerns over newfangled brand integration and product placement deals: They just want to be part of the discussions.
This was the message from the Writers Guild of America press conference yesterday in New York City, in the midst of the broadcast networks' week of upfront program presentations.
"We just want to be part of the dialogue," said John Wells, executive producer of "The West Wing" and "ER." "We want to be part of the conversation."
But the network and studios may not be hearing this call. When asked how management responded to the writers' request for meetings about product placement, WGA West President Patric Verrone said there was "a roaring silence. The sense we get from reading the trades is that it's a problem solvable by bargaining. But we haven't been given a time and a place."
"It's not about compensation," said David Young, interim executive director of WGA West. Writers say it's the creative rights issues. "The problem for us is the quality of the content."
Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU," said: "There's a huge difference with being presented with a list of product and how many times it needs to be run--and being given the opportunity to have real creative input in how it's being done. Our concerns are about the well-being of the product."
What is a good product placement? A couple of years ago, "Days of Our Lives" had an episode about the death of a child, said one panelist. Kleenex sponsored the episode--but with no product placement in the episode itself. Kleenex didn't force its brand name inside the episode--say, when the mother needed a tissue when she began crying.
Still, there are payment issues over product placement--and questions, say the WGA. Do the actors get a piece of the product placement? What about the network? The production company? A lot of paid product placement still varies greatly. Should there be specific rules?
"Desperate Housewives" creator and Executive Producer Marc Cherry said some companies can have certain demands. For instance, one car company didn't want one character on the show driving its specific sexy car. This deal was turned down.
"We have to make sure we are still driving the train," said Cherry. "We are very respectful of the writers on our show. We [also] don't want to promote something that may be at cross-purposes with our advertisers."
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