Product placement on TV – not a bad thing

Did you know that until 28th February product placement wasn't allowed in the UK? Well, product placement in films and international programmes (e.g. American sitcoms…) was allowed, because it wasn't made for the UK market. But now also programmes made for UK audiences can contain product placement. They have to comply with Ofcom’s (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) rules, but nevertheless: product placement has come to the UK.

Ofcom's product placement logo


Above you can see the logo which must be shown on the screen if a UK programme contains product placement. Also, some products can’t be placed, e.g. cigarettes and other tobacco products (obviously), medicines that are available only on prescription, alcoholic drinks, gambling products, all other types of medicines, food and drink that is high in fat, salt, or sugar…

These are of course negative aspects of the law, especially for brands of alcohol drinks – you might remember Stoli vodka or Canadian Club whisky from the American TV series Mad Men, which were successful (and paid) placements.

Couple of weeks ago UK market research company YouGov conducted a survey about product placement in the UK and got some interesting results.

Apparently 48% of all respondents know what product placement is and 57% of them notice product placement on TV all the time or at least occasionally. If we compare the latest results with YouGov’s similar survey from July 2010, we could see that there is no significant difference between the results.

Product placement is already allowed in film and television shows in the USA. How often, if at all, would you say you have noticed product placement in US films or TV shows?


However, YouGov’s survey sparked a bit of controversy. John Barnard, chairman of NMG Product Placement at Pinewood Studios, said that the part of YouGov research is based on flawed assumptions, because respondents’ comments about noticing product placement all the time are based on seeing brands, not product placements. Mr. Barnard also said that their research showed that a significant proportion of brands’ appearances were on location, or were bought, without influence, by the Art Department fo

r studio based sets to deliver realism. Good and valid point!

Here are some more results from the survey.

Only a third of the respondents said they knew that there is a new law in the UK which will allow product placement. The next question was even more interesting. YouGov asked: “Do you think this [the law] will be a good or a bad thing?” 50% felt undecided about the change – they said that they felt the law’s introduction was neither a good nor a bad thing (another 13% stated that they don’t know). We could assume that almost two thirds cannot decide whether the new law is good or bad. But that’s not tragic.

Here’s another interesting question: “How will your perceptions of a brand be affected if you saw it on a UK TV show or film you watch?”

How will your perceptions of a brand be affected if you saw it on a UK TV show or film you watch?


The majority said that their perception of a brand wouldn’t change, if they see it in a UK movie or in a TV show. However, slightly more of them (11 %) would be negatively affected, as opposed to 9 % of those who would be positively affected.

There has been another survey about product placement recently. In a Lightspeed Research survey 71 % of respondents said that they have noticed product placement in a TV show or film, up from 31 % from last year. Researchers also asked the respondents: Do you think you will be more or less likely to buy a product if you see in on TV as part of a programme? 13 % admitted that they will more likely buy a product, 81 % said that product placement will have no impact. For the remaining 6 % of them we could say that they will be somehow offended by product placement and will less likely buy that product.

Lightspeed Research marketing director Ralph Risk warned brand managers: “Brands that do use product placement have to make sure they don’t slam it in people’s faces. They have to understand the benefits and the limitations of the medium and accept that it has to fit in with the user experience.”

What can we say about the results?

Yes, they overestimate the number of people that actually see a proper product placement, yet respondents are not against product placement and they’ve said that it doesn’t really affect their brand perception. This is a good message, but also a warning sign for marketers and brand managers: “Yes we can” do product placement, but we must do it carefully and not underestimate our viewers/consumers.


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