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Product placement permitted

5 January 2011

Ofcom has announced that from 28 February 2011 product placement will be permitted in UK TV programmes.

The Government decided to allow product placement earlier this year following changes to European broadcasting legislation, however it could not be permitted until necessary changes had been made to the Broadcasting Code. The changes have now been made and can be found in a revised Section Nine of the Code.

Making it obvious

The new rules state that product placement in TV programmes must be clearly signalled by means of a universal logo which must appear at both the start and end of any programme in which product placement appears. The same logo must also appear after each commercial break.

Viewers will therefore see the first signs of product placement in January 2011, ahead of the February launch date, when Ofcom aims to issue a ‘universal product placement logo’. During consultation suggested logo’s included a ‘PP’ inside a red circle and other similar ideas, but the final design remains to be seen.

The New Year will also see an ‘audience awareness campaign or announcement’ appearing on our screens which will be broadcast ahead of the launch date by all broadcasters intending to take advantage of the new rules.

What is allowed?

Product placement of the following types of products are banned under the AVMS (Product Placement) Regulations 2010:

  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • gambling
  • food and drinks high in fat, sugar or salt
  • medicines
  • baby milk

Ofcom has decided that the paid-for placement of certain other products or services is also prohibited, including for example weapons and escort agencies.

Where to place

Placement will be allowed in:

  • films, including dramas and documentaries
  • TV series, including soaps
  • entertainment shows
  • sports programmes

It will not be permitted in:

  • children’s programmes
  • news programmes
  • UK produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes

Further restrictions

As well as the specific restrictions above, there are also further general restrictions on product placement.

The rules state that product placement must not influence the content and scheduling of programming in such a way as to affect the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster, and that any placement must be editorially justified.

Further, references to placed products and services should not be unduly prominent.

Interestingly the rules also state that references to placed products and services must not be promotional. What exactly does this mean? Initial guidance to the new rules states that a positive reference to a placed product or service is likely to be perceived as promotional in intent, and is likely to include encouragements to purchase, advertising claims and slogans associated with a product. It may also include multiple references to a product or various characters repeatedly using a particular product.

So for example we are not likely to see multiple purchases at the Rovers Return of Carlsberg simply because it’s ‘probably the best lager in the world’.

Sponsorship

Ofcom has also taken the opportunity to amend the rules on TV sponsorship. As of 28 February 2011 sponsors will be able to product place in programmes they sponsor, as well as inserting their logos as internal sponsorship credits within programmes.

Radio

At the same time as announcing the new rules on product placement, Ofcom introduced new rules for radio which took effect on 20 December 2010. These new rules allow advertisers, for the first time, to make commercial references within programming.

As with product placement, the broadcaster must ensure that listeners are made aware when commercial references are made, and paid for references in children’s and news programmes remain prohibited.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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