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What Hinders UK Product Placement Growth: Rules, 'Free Prop'-aganda

Posted by Abe Sauer on February 29, 2012 11:01 AM

Product placement in the US has never been bigger. Meanwhile, in the UK, product placement is exploding… in 2013.

Since the UK authorities opened up the media market to product placement in February 2011, little action has been taken. A flood of product choking British screens, the very thing critics warned about, has not happened. In fact, nothing remotely close has occurred. Fewer than 20 paid placements have been arranged in the last year. But don't despair!

A recent Marketing Week report quotes commercial content director at ITV, Gary Knight, summing it up: "There’s a lack of case histories, but we are rolling them out in the next six months which will help spur the market on. 2012 will be the re-energising period for us for product placement."

The head of content at MPG Media Contacts told Marketing Week, "I think we have a hard year ahead of us negotiating deals and conducting research but by the time there has been around 30 deals in the market - probably by 2013 - there will categorically be a place for product placement in the UK."

One brand that has demonstrated confidence in the fledgling practice is Nationwide, which recently renewed its brand integration deal on the show Coronation Street. One reason Nationwide decided to reup: research that found a whopping 70 percent of viewers could recall its Corrie placement.

Another placement success has been BBC's series Sherlock Holmes, which helped land a small ceramics brand some fame. Designer Ali Miller told the Guardian that she "sold out by the end of the evening." That placement was not arranged, placed instead by the propmaster. BlackBerry, an arranged placement, has also won some plum exposure on the show.

John Barnard, chairman of NMG Product Placement, the agency behind the Sherlock Holmes BlackBerry placement, told us, "The slow take up is caused by only two factors. Firstly, restrictive Ofcom guidelines. Secondly, there is already a parallel commercial blueprint in the 'free prop' supply market. At the end of the day 'paid for' is just another way of paying to gain brand integration. Unless broadcasters relate their "paid for" proposals to the well established  'free prop' market commercial dynamics, they will appear an expensive alternative."

He added, "Feedback from NMG's clients repeatedly tells us that they do directly compare the ROI and commercial structure of new 'paid for' proposals with existing 'free prop' product placement and are finding 'free prop' a more attractive investment, with greater spread of exposure."

Since January, NMG has been studying and calculating the "size of the 'paid for' market" based on tracking commercially sellable opportunities. Stay tuned for more on that front.

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