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Product placement: A closer look at its role in UK TV programming

Product placement has featured within TV programming in the UK since 28th February, 2011. This blog explores how product placement has become an integral part of the TV viewing experience, shaping audience perceptions and brand awareness in subtle yet powerful ways.


What is product placement?


Brands can pay a TV channel or programme maker to integrate their products or services seamlessly within a show’s narrative.

 

Product placement, often identified by the discreet logo PP, involves a collaborative effort between brands, production teams and broadcasters to feature specific products or reviews within TV content. It is permitted in TV series, soap operas, dramas, documentaries, entertainment shows and sports programming.

 

Unlike traditional advertising, where commercials can be perceived as interrupting the viewing experience, product placement integrates brands organically into the storyline, set design, or character interactions.


Of the two different ways a brand can use product placement, the most favoured is placing a product in situ during the filming of the programme.


Alternatively, a product can also be placed digitally in post-production after the programme has been filmed.

 

Placements can include:


  • being part of the set decoration - e.g. a food item on a shop shelf

  • a product being physically used – e.g. a character using a laptop or ATM machine

  • a poster or billboard; - e.g. advertising on the bus shelter in Coronation Street


The most successful product placements are the ones that fit the programme and appear in a natural setting.


What are the benefits of Product Placement?

 

  • It’s the closest editorial placement available commercially

  • Demonstrates a product’s usage in real-life situations

  • Products are seen to be endorsed by the characters or celebrities who are using them within the programme

  • It raises brand profile and assists brand normalisation by presenting products in a familiar, natural context that resonates with viewers

  • Boosts purchase consideration

  • Encourages brand acceptance from the viewer

  • Drives a strong and emotional connection between the brand and viewer.

  • Enhances brand affinity and loyalty

  • Works well when integrated with other marketing strategies such as sponsorship or digital platforms

Product placement rules

 

Any product placement must comply with Ofcom’s rules. There are some categories that can’t use product placement including: tobacco products, alcoholic drinks, any association with gambling, baby milk, medicines that are only available on prescription or food and drink that is high in sugar, fat or salt.


Product placement is not allowed to feature within any news, religious, current affairs or children’s programming.

 

The product placement logo has to be shown at the programme's beginning and end for 3 seconds and briefly during the ad break.

 

The product must also fit naturally within the storyline ensuring that scenes aren’t created specifically to showcase the product, nor should the product be overly promoted.

 

In summary

 

Product placement serves as a dynamic marketing tool that blurs the lines between advertising and entertainment in UK TV programming. By striking the right balance between creativity, compliance, and audience engagement, brands can leverage product placement to forge meaningful connections with viewers and elevate their brand presence in the competitive television landscape.


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