product placing, regulating, television

2.2%: why it will take more than product placement to relieve the UK’s commercial broadcasters current woes

Channel4_news_product_placement Krishnan Guru-Murthy interviews Darryl Collins of SeeSaw media on last night's product-placement imagined Channel4 news

so six months after Andy Burnham ruled out the possibility the UK would seem to be on track for product placement after all.  the move – which would see independent broadcasters to take payments for displaying commercial products during shows (excluding news, kids TV and BBC) – will be announced by Ben Bradshaw next week.  shortly after the announcement all hell broke loose.

Metro reported Mediawatch-UK as suggesting that programmers had to be 'very careful' about which products were advertised, and Richard Lindley, of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (just both of them?) as saying: "we believe that product placement destroys the trust of viewers in the programmes they are watching".  if that were the case trust would have already been destroyed – programmes are already packed full of brands (they're a reflection of the real world), its just that now broadcasters and programme makers will be able to monetise the exposure they give to brands in doing so.

there was an interesting exchange between Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Darryl Collins of SeeSaw media on Channel4 news last night:

CGM: do you think that brands can be trusted with this kind of power?

DC: erm

CGM: you work with them.  you know how cynical they are…

DC: of course.  what they're looking for is the greatest ROI … so they're going to have a say in what's going on air, then if that helps generate extra revenue or sales … then yes they will want to get involved

perhaps I'm just the luckiest of planners, but not many if any of the brands that I work or have worked with are that cynical.  most are interested in having a genuine, effective and engaging encounter with the people they are wanting to reach, and if placing products in TV shows allows then to do that then all power to them.  it will be a foolish and ill-advised brand that goes in all guns blazing – pissing off programme makers, broadcasters and ultimately viewers in the process.  no one will win, least of all the brands themselves.

finally a little context.  if, as estimated, ITV see about £30m a year of the £100m or so that's expected to be generated thru the move, its not going to have a huge impact.  about £1.3bn in spot revenues across the network, a good £60m more in sponsorship revenues and say £20 in online totals about £1.38bn.  £30m therefore represents about 2.2% of what ITV are currently generating.  even if ITV was to open the doors as per the below (which they won't), the promise of a few product placements is hardly salvation for the UK's commercial broadcasting sector.

ps thanks Bevvo for the stats and the vid…

product placing

In praise of Product Placement: Why ‘The Superbowl for Women’ is a true reflection of the branded world in which we live

Sex_and_the_city so for one reason or another I found myself watching Sex and the City at the weekend.  the event was preceded on Friday lunchtime by colleagues warning me about the pervasive and excessive (their words) product placement in the movie.  I was bracing myself for the worst.

there was no need.  not only did I not find the product placement intrusive, but thought that it genuinely added to the movie (which for the record I didn't love and thought CB was intensely annoying throughout, but I'm using it as a vehicle for a post on product placement).

the internet seems to agree with my colleagues.  a post on Adrants notes that a panel for Brandchannel's Brandcameo (which conducts product placement in film studies so knows about these things) selected Sex and the City for their Film Whore award; awarded to the film that most "sold out" for product placement.

delightfully, Vanity Fair sent not one but two reporters to the movie.  they happily counted no less than 67 brands that appear in the movie, which you can explore here.  this is perhaps not surprising given that the same article reports how a New Line Cinema exec coined the movie the 'Super Bowl for women'.

I've never had a problem with product placement.  we live in a branded world, where the meanings, symbolism and trappings of brands pervade not only what we consume but why we consume them.  they in part define us and we in part define ourselves by them.  to quote John Kay:

"I am irresistible, I say, as I put on my designer fragrance.  I am a merchant banker, I say, as I climb out of my BMW.  I am a juvenile lout, I say, as I pour an extra strong lager.  I am handsome, I say, as I put on my Levi jeans."

what would be weird would be a movie without brands.  where the reality of brands was pasted out in favour of, what exactly? …editorial or cultural purity?  there is no such so-called purity to protect.  the 20th Century's walls that separated advertising and content are being pulled down.  not because we have to (although in many instances – PVRs etc – we do) but because a media and communications ecology in which brands are able to tell their stories by attaching and associating themselves to real stuff is better than one in which 30" stall after 25×4 after 30" stall is wheeled out to effective frequency us into submission.

Movies are better for having brands, where appropriate, in them.  those who argue that the appropriate level is zero should take a look around them, because that's not the world in which they live.