As seen on screen

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 02, 2011, 9:14 PM GMT+0

The British public is largely ambivalent about the placement of products on television and in films, although on balance feels that the more informative or educational a programme, the less appropriate any product placement, our survey has found. Up until Monday this week, placement has been illegal in British films and TV programmes, but the law has since changed, allowing brand names to be shown on screen.

  • 50% felt ambivalent towards the change, saying that they felt the law’s introduction was neither a good nor a bad thing
  • A clear majority of 70% says that their perception of a brand would not be affected either positively or negatively if they saw it in a UK TV show or film
  • Opinion is marginally more negative than positive, however, with 23% in total saying the new law’s introduction was ‘bad’ and 14% saying it was ‘good’

Cigarettes and alcohol

Among the items Brits consider as least acceptable to be shown are fast food (chosen by 21% as acceptable) and alcohol products (19%), financial service products (13%) and cigarettes (8%) compared to the placement of cereals (seen to be acceptable by 39%), cars (38%), household appliances (35%) and hot drinks (34%).

And it seems Brits would be most accepting of product placement in their entertainment shows but much less so when watching informative programmes.

  • 41% felt product placement was fine in British soaps (such as EastEnders)
  • 28% felt the same about films
  • 26% apiece thought products would be acceptable in DIY/home improvement shows and in drama series, while specifically British drama, and comedy, came in next with 24%

In contrast, 52% thought national news was not the place for products, with world news (50%), local news (48%), documentaries (42%), nature programmes (35%) and science or technology shows (27%) coming next on the ‘least appropriate’ list.

Products across the pond

Product placement is the deliberate placement of branded goods or services in visible places on screen, and is widely used in the United States, especially on shows with very high ratings, such as Simon Cowell’s American Idol (pictured, with prominent Coca Cola glasses on the desk). 2008 film release James Bond and the Quantum of Solace was a famous example of intense product placement in films, featuring items from Coca-Cola, Ford, Virgin Atlantic (and others) throughout, while pop star Britney Spears is reported to have earned £500m from product placement in her latest music video.

In Britain, however, the regulator Ofcom has ruled that television programmes featuring product placement must show a ‘P’ icon at the beginning and end of broadcast to alert viewers to its use, and stipulates that placement should neither be gratuitous nor should presenters talk about products explicitly, while BBC programmes will remain product-free and the placement of cigarette, alcohol or fast food advertising is prohibited for all programmes and channels.

See the survey details and full results here