Product Placement on UK TV

Ofcom has recently confirmed that from the end of February 2011 advertisers will be able to openly pay for their products to be used in UK television programs. This brings the UK up into line with the US where product placement has been permissible for what seems forever.

Due to the amount of US television shows currently being broadcast in the UK, this change may not bother many viewers, with some, probably saying that they weren’t even aware that product placement was illegal. All of the ‘top’ US shows have carried product placement for a number of years with manufacturers and brands paying millions of dollars to make sure that the lead actors are working on their Dell desktops or talking to their co-stars on their iPhones. Now it seems that viewers will have to get used to their UK counterparts doing similar.

Although the ban on paid placement has been lifted Ofcom have still restricted the use of product placement and although placement will be allowed in films; soaps; entertainment shows & sports programmes they will not be allowed to appear in any children’s & news programmes or any UK produced current affairs, consumer affairs or religious programs.

They have also set legislation that restricts the type of product permissible and have banned:

  • Tobacco products
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Food or drinks high in fat, salt or sugar
  • Medicines
  • Baby milk

The Ofcom rules also make it clear that although product placement is now allowed the placement of any product must “not impair broadcasters’ editorial independence and must always be editorially justified.” This in essence means that the program cannot be written with the product in mind so that they simply become an out and out advertisement for the product. This rule then stops any issues like when the ’Sex And The City’ writers created a plot revolving around Absolut Vodka.

Product Placement has been a very successful form of advertising and it will continue to be so, and so I can see it really taking off over here & becoming a very popular revenue stream with TV producers. Some commentators have said that it could be worth at least 5% of the total UK TV advertising market. If this is the case that would give it an annual value of £150m.

The difference is I think that because of the internet and the ability to watch programs from overseas people may not immediately think “Oh I really need to go and buy more Coca -Cola because the American Idol/ X Factor judges have it on their table”… That said I could be proved wrong, it has happened before (though not very often).

Finally, I couldn’t write a post about product placement without including the Wayne’s World scene where they lampoon the whole idea. 🙂

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