Ofcom has just published the much anticipated results of its in-depth consultation on paid-for product placement, following hot on the heels of WPP’s Mediaedge:cia recent research into attitudes to the practice.
Topic: Ofcom consultation results kick product placement review into long grass
Where: Ofcom statement
When: October 2006
Ofcom has finally published a summary of the responses it received to a consultation it held in December 2005 on the practice of (paid-for) product placement (i.e. the inclusion of, or reference to, a product or service within a programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration) in UK television.
Unsurprisingly broadcasters and advertisers in general favoured a controlled introduction of product placement, whilst most consumer and viewer organisations were firmly opposed to the concept. Ofcom also predictably noted that the current restriction preventing product placement in the UK is itself derived from a piece of European legislation, "The Television Without Frontiers" (TVWF) directive, over which it has no direct control.
As a result, aside from summarising the responses received to its consultation, Ofcom has concluded that it cannot make any proposal for change on this issue until such time as the TVWF directive is amended at a European level. It is worth noting that although some other European countries have not interpreted the current TVWF directive as prohibiting product placement, this certainly appears to be the European Commission's current interpretation of it.
As previously reported on Marketinglaw, although the European Commission has commenced procedures to amend the TVWF directive and replace it with a proposed "Audiovisual Media Services" (AMS) directive which (as currently drafted) would permit product placement in TV programming so long as it is "appropriately flagged" at the beginning or end of the programme, it is likely to take until 2009 at the earliest before the new AMS directive is implemented across Europe.
As a result, Ofcom has effectively pushed the issue of product placement into the long grass for at least the next couple of years.
A few weeks prior to the Ofcom statement, WPP's Mediaedge:cia division published interesting new research on the likely impact of product placement on consumer behaviour. Contrary to the widely held perception that product placement would adversely affect consumers' enjoyment of TV programming, it found that viewers of a programme featuring product placement gave enjoyment scores of up to 22% higher than viewers watching the same programme without any product placement.
The research also found that product placement was more effective at lifting brand awareness than the traditional 30-second spot.
Why this matters:
The focus of the product placement review has been firmly pushed back to the European authorities, and the proposed new AMS directive. Although some form of product placement is likely to be eventually permitted, this is unlikely to happen now until 2009 at the earliest.
Between now and then, however, there is likely to be a continuing debate as to the exact restrictions that should be applied to product placement, and whether or not, and to what extent, warnings would have to be included in the relevant programming.