Monday, January 07, 2008

Television Without Frontiers: Product Placement comes to the UK

About a year ago the European Commission was caught in a heated debate over Audiovisual and Media Policies.

On one hand they were considering pretty tough restrictions. For example, one suggestion included baning all interstitial adverts in children TV programs that lasted less than half and hour. A ban has just come in to place that prevents 'bad food' (sugar, fatty, etc) commercials running in TV programs aimed at the under 16s.

One of the biggest areas of debate was 'placement'. The debate identified two types of placement; Product Placement and Prop Placement.

The latter occurs when a branded item is supplied the program/film maker for the reasons of authenticity. For example, imaging not being able to show business men checking their email on hand held devices because it might be seen as an advert for BlackBerry. The other key aspect to the Prop Placement is that the marketers have (in theory) no control on how the products feature in the program. There's no need to linger on the BlackBerry logo if you do shoot a scene in which a bunch of business men all check their email.

The former, Product Placement, is a marketing strategy. That's then the TV program (or film) producers agree to let a certain product get a certain amount of air time.

TV advertising is not booming - in fact it's struggling to compete against digital (search, affiliate, etc...) and so program makers in the UK are very keen to be able to test and earn with product placement. Ofcom, the body which regulates this sort of thing, has suggested that product placement could be worth as much as £35,000,000 to the UK program makers in as little as 5 years.

It looks as if the European debate is coming to an end and that fairly open product placement is now possible. A number of program types are likely to be excluded though; news, sport and children programs. That makes sense, I really want news to be impartial and if I ever find myself watching a sport (unlikely but possible) then I'd be annoyed if the camera suddenly panned away from the action to focus on a fan slurping his product placed Cola Zero.

If you want to read more on this subject then two starting places are the regulatory framework for AVMSD and the Television Without Frontiers directive.

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