UK viewers muted on product placement

07 March 2011

LONDON: Most consumers in the UK do not believe the introduction of product placement on commercial TV will impact their enjoyment of shows, or the likelihood of purchasing brands.

Research firm Lightspeed Research surveyed 1,000 people about this marketing tool, officially permitted from the end of February.

Just 25% of interviewees expressed concern regarding this form of promotion, and another 20% reported they had previously found it "distracting".

Overall, 71% of respondents remembered a brand featured in a film or TV programme during the last year, measured against 31% from a similar study 12 months ago.

A key reason behind this shift is greater awareness, rather than a sudden leap in activity on the part of advertisers.

"I wouldn't have thought that in the past year there would have been a huge increase in the amount of product placement people are seeing," Ralph Risk, marketing director at Lightspeed Research, told Marketing Week.

"The knowledge and understanding of what product placement is, and is trying to do, is probably higher than a year ago."

When asked how the paid-for inclusion of goods might alter the viewing experience of shows, 8% said it would have a favourable influence, 20% anticipated a negative effect, and 73% expected no meaningful change.

These findings were largely consistent by gender, while 12% of 18-34 year olds adopted the positive stance and 23% proved less effusive.

Figures stood at 8% and 16% respectively for 35-54 year olds, hitting 3% and 22% in turn among 55-64 year olds.

"Younger people are generally more accepting of change. They have been brought up in a much more commercial world, so are more willing to accept the reality of commercialism," Risk said.

Elsewhere, 73% of the panel deemed product placement suitable in soap operas, an expansion from 58% last year.

A 52% majority afforded drama the same status, growing on 41% over the assessment period, and sport's totals more than doubled to 37%.

The response was somewhat muted for documentaries, accruing four percentage points to 24%.

News and content targeted at children are excluded from leveraging product placement, which only 15% of contributors thought should be allowed in the former category, and 9% in the latter.

Meanwhile, 43% provisionally supported the introduction of this type of marketing to the BBC, currently funded by an annual license fee and free of advertising.

Upon discussing purchase intent for 20 major brands, 81% of consumers believed product placement would leave little or no impression on their habits and preferences.

In contrast, 13% agreed they may be more likely to buy the item in question, and 6% stated the probability of them choosing it could actually fall.

A fifth of 18-34 year olds foresaw a positive improvement on this metric, falling to 12% of 35-54 year olds, and 6% of 55-64 year olds.

Budweiser and Gucci both posted better scores in this area compared with 2010, while Asda, Tesco and Nokia recorded declines.

However, 87% of those polled were unable to name a brand they had seen in a TV programme in the last month.

"If product placement is subtle and there is low recall, it does not mean it is not working," said Risk. "If there is high recall, it could be that the advertiser is being too heavy-handed."

He added: "The challenge will be to understand how to reach an appropriate metric."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff