Written by Media

Product Placement

Mark Kermode of Five Live and The Culture Show has a great rant about Sex and the City, exposing it for the product placement-fest that it is. And product placement is only growing in films. It’s long been accepted in the Bond films, but since The Matrix every blockbuster has done a mobile phone deal, and while Waynes World so memorably parodied the whole industry way back in 1992, the references are about as subtle in 2008 – look at Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk for starters.
Yesterday, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, spoke out against a proposal from the EU to allow product placement on British television:

Another test of standards that is coming round the corner is product placement. As you know the Government is obliged to consider this as part of the implementation of the new Audio Visual Media Services Directive.
I can see the arguments and benefits of product placement and understand why people feel it is an inevitability given the pressures they are under. But applying the same test, I can also see the cost and the very high costs that might be paid in the long term. I feel there is a risk that product placement exacerbates this decline in trust and contaminates our programmes. There is a risk that, at the very moment when television needs to do all it can to show it can be trusted, that we elide the distinction between programmes and adverts.
As a viewer, I don’t want to feel the script has been written by the commercial marketing director.
If Jim Royle gets out of his chair for a Kit Kat, I want to think, ‘he fancies a Kit Kat’ – not, ‘Kit Kat my arse!’

The full speech is here.
I’m not sure and have yet to be convinced by either side. The ITV view is that if it’s done badly viewers will vote with their remotes. I’m not sure. Watch any number of US series and you’ll see product placement already in place. Sometimes it’s subtle – a lot of times it’s not. And those blockbuster films I mentioned earlier are frankly embarrassing.
There’s also the reality that props are supplied by agencies to producers free of charge. It keep the cost of set dressing down, but it might mean that your office is fitted out completely with Apples, or perhaps Dells. That might be realistic. But it might not.
TV broadcasters are going to need to look for different revenue streams having largely screwed themselves out of premium rate phone line revenues, and with spot airtime becoming ever easier to skip through. But they’re really going to have to be careful if they want this to work.