Ofcom Unveils Conflicting Views on UK Product Placement

19 October 2006

LONDON: UK communications regulator Ofcom on Wednesday published the results of its consultation with broadcasters and consumer organisations on the thorny issue of TV product placement - the current euphemism for covert advertising.

The practice is currently unlawful under EU rules but could be legalised in the near future when the European Parliament votes on the matter. Assuming that vote favours liberalisation, it will up to the UK government to decide whether or not product placement is permitted on British TV.

Meantime, the pro and con lobbies have been feverishly active as yesterday's Ofcom report indicates.

Its key findings reveal few surprises, with commercial broadcasters avid to introduce an additional revenue stream to counter declining audiences, channel proliferation and ad-skipping via DVRs; while PP is opposed with equal vigour by consumer and viewer bodies.

On the assumption that European and UK authorities agree to permit broadcast product placement, the Ofcom consultees proffered the following views . . .

  • Viewers should be made aware of products placed in a programme, with a variety of mechanisms suggested to ensure transparency.

  • Product placement should be excluded from news and current affairs programmes.

  • Views varied as to whether it should be allowed in documentaries, drama, soaps, sitcoms and children's programmes.

  • Any products prohibited from advertising on television - for example, tobacco - should not be allowed to be placed.

  • Opinions differed in relation to the possibility of placing products such as alcohol which are subject to advertising scheduling controls.

  • There would be a need to provide clear guidance to artists and writers on their right to refuse to endorse certain products.
The complete Ofcom document can be downloaded by clicking here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff