WPP Sees TV Production as Product Placement Fast-Track

18 October 2006

LONDON: No sooner had the ink dried on GroupM's deal to co-produce October Road, a drama series for Disney's US network ABC Television, starring Tom Berenger, than WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell hit the ground running.

GroupM, as the universe this side of Alpha Centauri knows, is the media investment management vehicle created by Sorrell to oversee WPP's agencies in this sector.

Agencies, which in the current nervy climate of DVR-adskipping and media channel proliferation, are increasingly eager to push product placement and sponsorship

Ever the canny salesman, Sir Martin was at the ready when news of the co-production deal broke; and The Times, Rupert Murdoch's voice in London was, as usual, ready to lend an ear to Sorrell's utterings.

"We want to do it [similar co-production deals] everywhere," confided the eager knight to The Times. Sir Martin, it seems, is keen to extend the concept across the planet , subject to regulatory approval.

Spurred, like RCA's famous Nipper, by the voice issuing from the megaphone, Dominic Proctor, worldwide chief executive of Group M's MindShare, opined that similar co-productions will be seen in Britain in the near future.

"We are very close to doing October Road-style productions in the UK," he said. However, he noted that laws in Britain are tighter and that any such deal would be tailored accordingly.

Procter is equally eager to export the concept to mainland Europe, believing it would be far more effective than any 30-second commercial.

However, the regulatory hurdles to product placement and interventionist sponsorship on the other side of the channel are not only set far higher - they are also garlanded with barbed-wire.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff