A new Ofcom ruling will allow product placement on certain programmes from the end of February 2011 providing a much needed lift to commercial channels following a well-documented dip in advertising revenues due to the recession.
News, current affairs and children’s programming may be excluded from the new ruling but that still leaves a wealth of opportunities in soaps, sports programmes and dramas where product placement could generate a huge additional income.
The advantage that advertisements hold over product placement is their ability to ‘go viral’. A great idea broadcast once can lead to millions of hits on free-to-use YouTube, adding reach and value to the campaign. Product placement has to be editorially justified and as such is unlikely to lead to a viral and any great amplification in audience figures. Of course some scenes in our favourite soaps are repeated endlessly, but, and this is just my opinion, the most popular soap scenes are grim murders, revelations, explosions and fights; what product wants to be associated with any of that?
I think 2011 will see companies getting to grips with product placement, we might see a few blatant initial offerings to begin with as producers fail to wrestle overall control from the fat cats chasing money. The ‘editorially justified’ clause certainly prohibits any characters in period drama Downton Abbey stumbling across a time-travelling Honda and racing to 2010 for a can of Pepsi but now that Ofcom has officially opened the floodgates anachronisms might well be omnipresent 10 years from now, if that’s where the money is!