Product placement in UK television programmes was made legal in February 2011.
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.
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. 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.
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. Over-zealous use of PP will invariably be self-defeating, whereas its imaginative and constructive deployment will achieve the desired effect - and win plaudits.
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 which belie its softly-softly appearance.
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.