Product Placement - Exciting Opportunity or Waste of Money?

Channel 4 Announces Product Placement Deal with New LookOn 28th February, Nestle became the first brand to benefit from the new rules on paid-for product placement on British TV when its Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine appeared on ITV's This Morning.But over the past couple of months, annoucements of further product placement deals have been few and far between.  TRESemme have signed up with Sky's Next Top Model and New Look with T4's new Fashion Show, but both deals involve a combination of programme sponsorship and product placement.In addition, a recent YouGov poll on the subject shows TV audiences at best indifferent and at worst openly hostile to the thought of product placement in British shows.Does this underwhelming response from brands and consumers mean that product placement isn't as attractive an opportunity for brands as some thought?Probably not.  The slow pace of progress is most likely down to a number of factors.Firstly, there is a limited universe for product placement deals in the UK.  Of course, it has to be British produced, which means that broadcasters such as Channel 4 and 5, which rely to a significant degree on imports for their content, offer only limited opportunities.  In addition, children's programming, news, current affairs, religious and consumer advice shows cannot participate. The same applies to the biggest producer of homegrown programming, the BBC.In addition, many of the brands that drive the product placement channel in markets like the US and Australia are prohibited by Ofcom rules - including food brands high in fat, salt or sugar. Drinks and tobacco brands are also prohibitted.But the small number of confirmed placements is most likely a reflection of the caution of producers, broadcasters and advertisers faced with a possible backlash from audiences if they get things wrong, and from the lead times involved in the production of much original programming. Much of this caution may be misplaced considering that UK audiences are already familiar with product placement in the large number of US imports currently screened by UK channels.So is product placement a viable strategy for premium and luxury brands? Yes - the brands scrambling for even a fleeting association with the James Bond franchise shows the power the right association can have.And while British TV doesn't necessarily have characters of the same profile and power as Bond, product placement can be highly cost effective - Nestle's initial This Morning experiment delivered up to £500,000 worth of coverage value for an outlay of less than £100,000.With audiences increasingly able to avoid TV advertising, product placement offers a cost effective way to reach mass audiences, increase brand awareness and, via an association with a programme, character or personality much-loved by its audience, increase brand affinity.But Ofcom's rules are tight - placements mustn't be given undue prominence and must be editorially justified. Hence, brand's are best to consider additional ways to leverage their product placement - like New Look and TRESemme have done - rather than rely on it to deliver significant value unsupported.

TVGraham Painter