The morning TV show’s “shopping expert” says this faux fur coat is the ideal gift…these mail-order steaks will be some of the best you ever tasted…and your pet will love these warm and stylish dog leggings. But can you trust the expert…or the show?
Popular daytime talk and news shows such as Today, Good Morning America and The View frequently include segments featuring product recommendations. A host or someone introduced as a shopping expert trots out products that he/she claims are wonderful buys. But often these are not the unbiased product reviews that they seem—the show’s production company or network may receive a commission for each item that its viewers purchase. The programs instruct viewers to buy these products in a very specific way—by clicking a link on the show’s website (or on a separate website that has been set up by the show to sell the products discussed). They don’t mention that the seller has agreed to pay the production company or network a fee each time someone does so.
These financial arrangements often are disclosed only in places where most viewers won’t read them—in the credits that roll at the end of the show and/or in small print on the show’s website. And even in these places, the arrangement often is described only in vague, confusing language, such as a sentence noting that the show has received “promotional consideration.”
These disclosures seem to fall short of the Federal Trade Commission’s advertising and testimonial guidelines, which require broadcast programs to “fully disclose” that they are receiving payments in situations like these. Certainly these arrangements undermine the objectivity of the shows’ product reviewers.
What to do: If you see a product recommendation on a daytime talk show, understand that you likely are watching what is essentially a paid advertisement, not a disinterested endorsement. Despite that, it might truly be a nice item, and these programs often arrange special low prices for viewers who purchase through their websites. But before buying, enter the product’s name into a search engine to confirm that you can’t find a better price elsewhere…and to see whether other reviewers and shoppers agree with the show’s favorable review.