DETROIT -- You open up your favorite celebrity magazine. Russell Crowe is looking good in a photo spread about his Australian ranch - especially in the shot of the dead kangaroo he's strapping to the roof of his Lexus LX 470.
Flip a page, and there's an article about a hot new New York eatery; a photo shows a Lexus SC 430 parked in front.
Coincidence? No way. This hypothetical magazine is chock-full of product placements for Toyota Motor Corp. Its luxury division is asking several national magazines to use Lexus vehicles to illustrate stories in "groundbreaking" ways, says Deborah Wahl Meyer, Lexus Division's vice president of marketing.
The practice is common in movies and TV shows. But critics say the expansion of product placement into print is a slippery slope that could turn print journalism into just another shill game.
Wahl Meyer won't say which publications might sign such deals.
"In TV, product placement has really stepped up," she says. "That's paid for and accepted by the public. It has become pretty widespread. There's a lot of opportunity to do that in the print world, too."
Auto enthusiast magazines routinely borrow vehicles from automakers to illustrate articles. There is nothing subliminal about such practices, since the vehicles themselves are the subject of the articles. Newspapers and consumer magazines also borrow vehicles to do car reviews.