Covert advertising - aka product placement - is set to squeeze over $3 billion (€2.33bn; £1.58bn) from global advertising budgets this year, according to US researcher PQ Media.

According to the company's Global Product Placement Forecast 2006, overall spend in 2005 rose nearly 40% versus 2004, while in the US it surged 50% to exceed $1.4 billion.

In real terms, however, placements have garnered an even larger slice of the marketing pie, given that payment is often via freebies, barter and non-cash or value-added deals. PQM estimates the entire pie as worth nearly $6bn in 2005. That represents a leap of 28% over 2004.

But, complains PQM, "the lack of standard metrics in the US and abroad continues to pose challenges for the growth of this alternative marketing tactic". Over the last two years, the researcher has made an effort to develop such placement metrics.

In addition to quizzing "more than fifty of the world's leading authorities in product placement," it draws on its SpendTrack database, hyped as "the largest advertising and marketing spending database in the world." It also uses the Q-Ratio measurement system developed by iTVX.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff