In the U.S. of A., product placement is a fact of life. This blog should be a testament to that. It might come as a surprise, then, to find out that in the United Kingdom there are restrictions to this marketing strategy. However, last February the UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, released its vice-like ethical grip on surreptitious advertising, and slowly but surely opened the door for product placement. In the past few months branded products started popping up on weekend and daytime shows, while the grandaddy of them all lurked around the corner–prime time. With the inclusion of product placement in the soap opera Coronation Street (which I’ve never heard of), that has now changed. Apparently the soap ” will feature a branded ATM in the street’s fictional corner shop,” according to Adweek.com. Not the flashiest of products, I must say, but how wonderfully appropriate to launch a new era of advertising than with a cash machine! Perhaps executives felt it was better to kick off with something that accurately represented their interests.
Doing a little bit of research on Ofcom’s website I found some interesting information. From the FAQ section on product placement:
How can products be placed?
There must be ‘editorial justification’ for a product to be placed in a programme.
That means the product must be relevant to what the programme is about. The content of programmes shouldn’t seem to be created or distorted, just to feature the placed products.
Programmes also can’t promote placed products or give them too much prominence. So there shouldn’t be any claims made about how good a placed product is, or so many references to a product that it feels like it is being promoted.
Editorial justification you say? Ha, I’d like to see how that flies in the U.S. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of restriction of the sort in this country. See this Days of our Lives clip for evidence. Check this next question out:
How will I know if a programme contains product placement?
If a UK programme contains product placement, the TV channel has to show a special logo. This will let viewers know that the TV channel or the programme-maker has been paid to include products in that programme. The logo is pictured below – there are two versions so that it can be used on a light or dark background.
Can you imagine this happening in American television? Unthinkable! Spending a couple of hours watching TV can jade even the most innocent of viewers, so I think it’s a very nice and sweet touch that UK programmers go to the trouble of letting the audience know they’re being swindled. Two thumbs up for Ofcom!