Product placement

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
August 11, 2010, 12:06 AM GMT+0

The British public is split in their support and opposition of the recent decision by Ofcom to relax its product placement rules in TV shows, with 41% supporting the decision while 40% oppose it, a survey has found.

The media watchdog announced last month that product placement will be allowed in films, TV series, entertainment shows and sports programmes, but not Children’s TV or News programmes. The move has been justified, in the words of Ofcom, as a way ‘to enable commercial broadcasters to access new revenue streams where possible, whilst protecting audiences’. However, the move has been criticised for blurring the line between editorial content and commercial messages.

The new rules mean that broadcasters will have to tell viewers if a UK produced programme contains product placement through the use of an on-air symbol in the corner of the screen at the start and end of the programme.
While the majority (55%) thinks the symbol will be a distraction, 20% feel it will nonetheless be a necessary, to ensure viewers are aware of product placement. 35%, however, feel that the extent of the distraction renders the symbol superfluous. In contrast, 18% felt that it was necessary and wouldn’t be distracting, while 17% thought no indication of product placement was necessary at all.

American advertising

Although the subject splits the opinion of British audiences, product placement is already allowed on TV shows and films in the United States. Recent high-profile instances include singer Lady GaGa’s video for her single Telephone, which, piled high with brand names, has had more than 73 million views to date on YouTube, not to mention its exposure on music television channels. Several Hollywood blockbusters have become infamous for their use of branding, including the James Bond franchise and Steven Spielberg’s 2002 smash, Minority Report, which is often argued to have kick-started the product placement trend.

Interestingly, though, when we asked how often Brits watching American television programmes and films notice product placement, only 14% said they ‘always’ notice it. 37% said ‘occasionally’ while an oblivious eight percent said they ‘never’ notice.

Subliminal advertising or justifiable marketing? It seems Ofcom has decided, but the public has yet to make up its mind.

Survey details and full results