Selling point 

13 September 2009

Rule change allows TV product placement

When Andy Burnham (the previous Culture Secretary) said that there was no room for paid product placement on British television, the general consensus was that this stance would be relatively short-lived and a change of government will promptly reverse this decision.

Or in this case make that a change of Culture Secretary, since it now appears that ITV (in particular) will very soon have its long-standing wish come true, namely that it will now be able to have those Coca-Cola glasses displayed prominently during whatever programme Simon Cowell happens to be on at the time.

Two things initially stand out from what will happen as a consequence. Once you allow even a very limited form of paid product placement, it will be only a matter of time before there will be a further relaxation of the rules, which could make UK commercial television resemble that of Australia that often has very intrusive product placements.

Of course ITV in particular stands to benefit most from paid product placement, but this will also make non-commercial programming more distinctive as a byproduct which in turn could further improve public support for the licence fee-funded BBC. (Presumably Channel 4 will be treading a middle path in this respect.)

You can see why there has been intense pressure from commercial broadcasters for this to happen as a consequence of a severe advertising downturn, because paid product placement may under certain circumstances be the only noticeable form of advertising if conventional adverts and sponsorship are ignored or skipped over.

Hence the “competitive disadvantage” claim, even if paid product placement will amount to relatively little in terms of funding compared with other means such as a recent trend where companies actually help to fund a programme as part of a sponsorship deal, eg. Sage funding the recent ITV revival of The Krypton Factor.

Of course exactly how this will affect UK commercial television remains to be seen, although it will be a pity if/when it inevitably becomes difficult to find a mainstream, commercially-produced TV programme which doesn’t actively try to sell you something, but at least there probably won’t be much drama left on ITV to be affected by such a thing.

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Monday 5 December 2022