Product Placement

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Product Placement:

Product placement in UK television programmes was made legal in February 2011. After more than 50 years of TV’s advertising and editorial elements being kept totally separate, brands are now allowed to appear within programmes as part of a commercial arrangement.

This development gives UK advertisers a new technique to deploy, which is good news – assuming we know product placement’s role, and its effect within the overall communications plan. This publication offers one of the first researchbased assessments of the difference that product placement can make to a campaign.

Carry on reading below or download the full illustrated PDF opposite



Although TV product placement (PP) in the UK was prohibited until 2011, the restrictions only applied to programmes made here. With many hours of US TV and film appearing on UK screens, the unintended effect of the previous regulations was to allow all but British product placement. Commercial broadcasters and advertising bodies lobbied for a level playing field, and after due consideration Ofcom launched the new rules on 28th February 2011, with limitations so as to reassure and protect viewers.

The restrictions in place include the requirement to show the PP logo for at least three seconds in the opening and closing credits, and again briefly in the ad breaks.

For links to Ofcom’s guidance and more about PP visit

The Role of Product Placement

Seeking to integrate a product or service within a programme is a specialised communication technique, different in many ways from advertising spots or sponsorship credits. It is worth considering when objectives are similar to one or more of the following:

  • To make a product look normal, popular, natural or ideal in a certain setting, show or content; or to be associated with a certain type of person
  • To show aspects of a product and its use which are not readily conveyed in ads
  • To appeal to targets who are sceptical of, or averse to, advertising
  • To embellish an advertising campaign with an editorial flourish
  • To encourage particular emotional attributes or responses to a brand

Product placement is typically one component of a multi-faceted advertising strategy involving e.g. sponsorship of the same programme, spot advertising, online and mobile activity. Sky Media’s view, derived from research findings, is that PP works better in combination with other elements than in isolation.

How Product Placement can be used

The regulations prohibit undue prominence, rendering product placement a relatively subtle method in the repertoire. That said there is an unlimited number of ways PP can be used imaginatively, to the benefit of advertisers, programmes and viewers.

Adhering to the spirit as well as the letter of the regulations is advisable, not least because viewers are the harshest regulators of all, changing channels without compunction if their goodwill is exploited or if editorial integrity is breached. Over-zealous use of PP will invariably be self-defeating, whereas its imaginative and constructive deployment will achieve the desired effect – and win plaudits.

Sky Media has developed a planning aid called the Concurrent Model to guide the implementation of spot, sponsorship and product placement, using each of their strengths to create a message journey in broadcast. Online, mobile, experiential and marketing elements can also be integrated, to create a holistic schematic view of a campaign.

What does Product Placement achieve?

The first substantial and extensively researched examples of UK product placement indicate that despite (or because of) its lowkey application, product placement is playing a valuable role – with insights indicating improved brand measures for those aware of the PP. Commercially, product placement is yielding incremental improvements to campaigns whichbelie its softly-softly appearance.

Read more about how brands have brought PP to life…

To read about campaigns for TRESemmé and Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, and Xbox Dance Central 2 and Got to Dance, please download the full PDF opposite or click here

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