From next week, 28th February, Ofcom will allow commercial TV channels to earn revenue from the placement of products within the programmes they make for UK audiences.
Viewers will know if a programme contains placed products by the appearance of the ‘P’ sign at the beginning and end of the programme.
Product placement has been around in films for years as fans of James Bond films will testify. Cars, mainly Fords but, of course, the classic Austin Martin, have been featured in many of the films alongside computer and other electronic equipment. It seems Q had some help along the way.
So how subtle or otherwise will the product placement be? According to Ofcom there must be ‘editorial justification’ for a product to be in the programme and it mustn’t appear so often that viewers feel they’re being sold to.
However, you could argue that the promotion of products in TV programmes has been around in the UK for a while too – remember Jim Bowen’s Bull’s Eye where the losing contestant was teased with “Look at the prizes you could have won”? Cars, speed boats and caravans were shown.
Or Brucie’s Generation Game where there was always a toaster or electric blanket (the height of many a viewer’s aspiration in the 70’s) to accompany the cuddly toy.
Clever use of product placement will make our favourite characters more real – their Starbucks choice may become ours.
But how much impact will this really have on UK TV viewing audiences? Will it just be a question of playing spot the product for a short while until we get bored of that game?
Like most cultural changes the effects will not be immediately apparent.
As the excellent short BBC series ‘Foods that made Billions’ showed, the power of advertising on our culture is astounding and only really apparent in retrospect.
The rise and rise of the breakfast cereal industry in the US and UK is one of the most successful marketing stories ever.
The advent of product placement in our daily TV viewing will give brand owners and marketers another tool to use to increase the relevancy of their products and ensure that they become more immersed in the fabric of our everyday lives.
And, if nothing else, it gives a whole new story line for the next Royle Family Christmas special as Jim, Denise, Barb and Dave have a punt on how many products will be featured in the latest episode of Corrie.