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Evolution or Revolution?

On the 1st March paid for product placement will be allowed for the first time within UK commissioned TV programmes. The relaxation of the rules by Ofcom has been largely driven by the lobbying of producers and broadcasters faced with mounting financial pressures coupled with the increased exposure of UK audiences to branded products within foreign TV imports.

What will it mean? Well two theories exist on that…

Evolutionist Theory:

1) No dramatic change as free prop supply already exists – brands have appeared in UK programmes for decades.

2) Strict controls will still apply – under the new rules placements cannot be promotional, they have to be editorially justified and cannot be too prominent.

3) Placement is limited to films, drama’s entertainment and sports programming (news, current affairs, children’s programmes are excluded).

4) The main broadcasters expect initial revenues to be modest, with ITV categorically stating that they did not want to replicate the US model.

5) Evolutionists argue that product placement will drive positive benefits for Advertiser Funded Programming with brand owners being more willing to invest in content that allows them to place their products within shows.

6) It took broadcast sponsorship over 20 years to accumulate revenues of £200m (representing less than 6% of current TV spot advertising revenue).

Revolutionist Theory:

1) Proponents of the revolutionist theory cite the US experience as a barometer of what will happen in the UK – where up to 11 product placements per clock hour are common within prime time.

2) The shift to paid for product placement will drive up advertiser costs and thus encourage brands to demand more overt prominence, thus generating more consumer complaints.

3) Ofcom will flag up every show with a warning symbol that includes product placement.

4) Revolutionists argue that revenues will be directly transferred from existing spot advertising and sponsorship.

5) If a brand wants to align itself to a certain celebrity there are no guarantees that the broadcaster will be able to control the deals, as agents and producers will transform the negotiation context.

Whatever ideology you support there can be little debate that times are changing. As with most things in life, the most resilient species will be the ones that successfully adapt their strategies to negate the challenges and exploit the new opportunities created by the product placement rev/evolution.