The Ultimate in Product Placement

You can't watch a movie nowadays without seeing identifiably branded soft drinks, computers or cars. The process is known as "product placement," the product being placed for a fee.

The process has now reached new heights, or lows. One product placement, for the Baby Einstein line of videos, books and toys, was the highlight of the president's State of the Union address, which says something about both the product and the speech.

The only trouble is that the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to investigate false claims against the company, now owned by Disney, for ostensibly promising falsely that the products have an educational component. There is no proof that putting videos on in front of 2-year-olds has any positive value at all, and, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics official, Baby Einstein stuff "is based on marketing, not research."

Similarly, the New York Times reports today that hospitals are now placing products in their suites. Case in point was today's opening of the Clinique Skin Wellness Center in the dermatology department at Weill Medical College of Cornell.

The cosmetics company gave most of the money for the Clinique clinique, an attempt to blur the real blemish at hand -- the growing commercialization of medicine.

The head of dermatology at the hospital says there is no conflict of interest, that it is simply a " naming opportunity." There are some names that come to mind, all right.

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