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It’s a little bit fascinating and a lot perplexing that there is so much debate – in Europe, North America and elsewhere – over product placement and brand integration in entertainment content. [See the Advertising Age article “How European Media Companies Are Dealing With Product Placement.”]

If the goal of a television show, movie, web site content or even a game is to truly engage an audience, then the presence of actual brands in that content is completely natural.

As I sit at my desk writing this, I have an Ice Mountain water bottle within reach. The Holmes fan is circulating air in an otherwise stuffy space. My Macbook Pro is making this blog post possible – as long as my Avaya phone doesn’t ring or I don’t grab that bottle of Windex to clean my Quartet white board.

When I get home and enter my Pella door I’ll sweep into my kitchen filled with an Asko dishwasher, Kitchenaid refrigerator and other brand-name appliances. Maybe I’ll sip a San Pellegrino water at my Silestone island counter from Crate and Barrel glassware while watching the news (OK, actually John Stewart and Stephen Colbert repeats) on my Sharp Aquos TV.

The point is, our real lives are immersed in brands. We see and hear them. Touch them. Use them. And have full-on visual contact with logos. Everyday. Everywhere. It’s normal.

So why shouldn’t we see them in our entertainment content? Is it more honest to sanitize content of actual brands, possibly making the setting less relatable? They sure think so in Denmark, where any product placement is banned. (Alas, what would Hamlet think? Would he even care?)

And so what if money has changed hands to get the brands into the scene. Last time I checked honest consumers have been happy to give money to get branded items into their lives.

Most people are savvy when it comes to consuming content. If a product placement feels forced or insincere, people will direct their attention elsewhere. More folks, by far, get duped by phone and online phishing schemes than they do from product placement.

So, let’s get over the hysteria and get on with the show. And that means letting audiences make their own decisions about how well they like or dislike brands in their daily dose of entertainment.

I once “under-reported” my degree of competitiveness in an annual review with my boss. It was one of the few times I ever saw her laugh.

Fine. I’m competitive. But when asked to self-assess how competitive I was what came to mind was the kind of take-away competition that is ultimately limiting and possibly destructive.

Competition can actually be healthy, even if one party benefits more in the outcome. And that brings me to the false debate over where advertising dollars are best spent. Not the best media strategy mind you. No, it’s the industry nattering that pits one platform against the other. As in, TV as an ad medium is dying and marketers “must” move dollars to online, mobile and elsewhere.

That zero sum philosophy was on self-serving display in remarks by Yahoo’s executive vice president of the Americas, Ross Levinsohn, which he delivered at the Interactive Advertising Bureau “The Future of Display” conference this week. His comments, reported in Direct Marketing News, keep alive the false competition among media platforms for advertisers.

I share my comment to the article reporting Levinsohn’s POV here, and invite you to share your opinions as well:

Rather than being the either-or proposition so often predicted but yet to come, we’ll eventually come to understand that entertaining content will be the connective tissue that links TV with digital advertising once and for all. I imagine a time – once preconceived constructs are laid to rest – when quality content moves seamlessly across platforms. Perhaps in ways modified to take best advantage of each platform, yet consistent and compelling no matter where it is experienced. Smart advertisers and marketers will dismiss all this ad dollar take-away thinking and begin crafting content that works where audiences chose to engage.

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