Brands Get Ready for Their Close-Up
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
In a multimedia world, advertisers have to find as many ways to get in as many faces as they possibly can. Retailers selling their products expect it, after all.
Television has long had sponsors for their shows. The U.S. and many European countries have allowed products and their logos to be clearly visible for some time but Britain has resisted. Until now.
Recession — and the internet — have claimed another scalp as revenue has fallen and alternatives have been desperately sought, forcing the government to at least consider a change of policy for commercial television. A three-month consultation has just been announced by Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, to explore product placement.
At present, labels on television programs must be camouflaged to comply with strict guidelines. Food and drink consumed in the Big Brother house, for example, come in packaging whose logos cannot be seen. Its creator, Peter Bazelgette, believes the change is "hugely overdue." The BBC quoted his prediction that placement "could be worth £100m a year to commercial TV. Product placement needs to be done transparently, with credits that make it clear it has taken place…Product placement won’t dramatically change the way we watch TV." Mr. Bazalgette added that "the commercial television proposition" would be strengthened because viewers fast-forward through commercial breaks or watch shows online, according to the Financial Times.
A statement from ITV (Independent Television) quoted in the Financial Times claimed that product placement "could be an important new revenue stream" and would "mean better-funded content, which can only be good news for viewers."
Ian Twinn, head of public affairs at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, disagreed on the potential value. "Advertisers are not crying out like mad for it," he said, citing doubts due to lead time and unknowns such as audience size and broadcast time.
Dave Turtle, spokesman for Mediawatch UK, also urged caution. In The Guardian, he expressed concern about "using television programmes to push a product" and advised broadcasters "to be responsible about which audiences they’re selling to and what. Self-regulation isn’t working. Do we really want to go down the American road where you’re bombarded constantly?"
In the U.S., product placement first began appearing in movies as far back as the thirties, was incorporated into radio mystery broadcasts before TV, and has been commonplace on TV. When Campbell Soup Co. sponsored "Lassie" in the 1950s, episodes ended with Timmy having a bowl of soup in the kitchen.
Discussion Questions: How beneficial has product placement in television and movies been for brands? Where does product placement fit within the mix of marketing tactics used by brands?
[Author’s commentary] Perhaps it depends on the program or the star, perhaps on the context, but many manufacturers and retailers love product placement. As do the television producers reaping the rewards for agreeing to either subtly or prominently display something that apparently fits the script. And consumers get to see what the stars or characters they love apparently love themselves. So where’s the harm, after all?
- Product placement for TV approved – BBC
- UK to follow US lead by allowing product placement on television – Guardian
- Labour set for U-turn on TV product placement – Financial Times