Idol Ads on Steroids

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Dear Common Sense Media: Our family loves watching American Idol. But it seems extra full of advertising. Is this a case of product placement?

Common Sense Media: You betcha. Remember that game from Highlights magazine we played as kids where you had to find the toothbrush hidden in the picture? You don’t need those skills to spot the ads in American Idol. And neither do your kids.

Coca Cola, Ford, and AT&T have ponied up in the vicinity of $35 million each for the privilege of embedding their products in America’s favorite TV show. So look for contestants to appear in videos with their favorite Ford, and keep an eye peeled for ads for all kinds of products … in between the sips of Coke from the prominent Coke cups. (And we haven’t even mentioned the car giveaways and AT&T sponsored voting!)

But you can help your kids outsmart the advertisers. Counteract the fact that the products will seem appealing because people your kids admire like them by making the products seem invasive. Point out how the ads are meant to manufacture desire, not showcase what people like. Make it a contest. Watch with a pad of paper, and keep score: How many times can kids spot the sponsors’ products? Whichever company has the most mentions wins the “in your face” advertising award. Help take the stealth element out of the ads—let your kids decide on their own what they like.

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